Coopers Beer directors Tim and Melanie Cooper have personally apologised for a controversial marriage equality video that has led to a boycott campaign and a revolt from some pubs with the company’s beers on tap.
The South Australian brewery came under fire last weekend after its beer was prominently featured in ‘Keeping it Light’, a video released by the Bible Society of Australia in which Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie discussed their differing views on marriage equality. Coopers also created 10,000 cases of commemorative beer to mark the 200th anniversary of the Society, to which the brewery is a longtime donor.
The video sparked a boycott campaign as marriage equality supporters slammed the video as condescending on social media. At least half a dozen licensed venues publicised plans to remove Coopers from their taps and donate proceeds of remaining stock to LGBTI charities.
Now the company’s director of corporate affairs Melanie Cooper has said in a new video released by the company that Coopers supports marriage equality and they “warmly embrace all Australians.”
“Offence has been taken by our recent involvement, for which we are deeply sorry,” she said.
“We have listened to a range of community views, we acknowledge this feedback and respect everyone’s individual opinions and beliefs.”
She said the release of the Bible Society commemorative cans had been cancelled and they’d taken steps to show further support, including joining Australian Marriage Equality.
Managing Director Dr Tim Cooper said he was “incredibly saddened” by the controversy’s impact on “our valued Coopers drinkers”.
“Coopers Brewery has been passionate about supporting all aspects of our community, and has actively and financially embraced many different organisations,” he said.
“Our company’s guiding principles have centred around respect for others, and, as such, the recent activity surrounding the video made by the Bible Society has conflicted with our core values.
“Coopers never intended to make light of such an important issue, and would never and did not approve the making or release of the Bible Society video debate.”
Liberal MP Tim Wilson told the ABC that in his view the outrage over the video was “way over the top”.
“As somebody who also supports a change in the law, I thought it was a good way to get a conversation directly to people who you may not be always able to engage on this issue,” he said.
Ivan Hinton-Teoh, campaigner for marriage equality group just.equal, praised Coopers for their response and attributed the backlash to the ongoing delay of marriage equality.
“Many LGBTIQ people and our allies are frustrated that marriage equality is taking so long and want commitment to reform rather than protracted debate,” he said.
“In a spontaneous national reaction, everyday Australians stood alongside their fellow LGBTIQ citizens and called for less talk and more action.”
Mr Hinton-Teoh said all Australian companies can get behind marriage equality because “it’s about love, commitment, family, fairness and respecting diversity.”
He encouraged Cooper’s to follow through with celebrating the Bible Society’s 200th anniversary but “in a way that does not combine the very separate issue of marriage equality.”
Veteran marriage equality campaigner Rodney Croome told BuzzFeed the Bible Society video presented the case for marriage equality to people of faith “who may never have seriously considered that case before.”
“I understand why some LGBTI people feel the video might trivialise the issue of marriage equality, but on balance I think it’s a good thing,” he said.
“It gives the pro-equality case extra credibility in the eyes of many people of faith because that case is presented by a Liberal MP at the invitation of the Bible Society.
“The Bible Society’s emphasis on having ‘a civil debate’ is also a positive because it can be quoted back to religious opponents of marriage equality if and when they start denigrating same-sex couples and our families.”