PRIDEFEST 2017: Loving business

IT’S all over bar the shouting.

But from all reports that clamour should be the joyful celebrations of marriage equality supporters when the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases the results of the national plebiscite on marriage equality this coming Wednesday.

With almost 80 per cent of the nation’s voters making the effort to have their say (that’s 12.6 million of us), pre-vote polls suggest that the Yes campaign can expect a resounding victory.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised a members bill legislating same-sex marriage by the end of the year, although this week conservative powerbroker Eric Abetz flagged that its passage through Parliament might not be quite as smooth as supporters might like. He suggested the draft bill was “seriously inadequate” and conservatives are now drawing up their own version which would include opt-out clauses so that people couldn’t be punished for refusing to marry or recognise a same-sex couple.

But Mr Abetz might bear in mind the groundswell of support  for marriage equality from the Coalition’s traditional support base; business.

• Alcoa were out strutting their LGBTIQ+ cred at last year’s parade, but that’s nothing to what the business community has planned for 2017.

Australian Marriage Equality has signed up 841 corporations, 496 local businesses and 223 regional businesses to support its campaign since Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and 19 other high-profile chief executives wrote an open letter to Mr Turnbull earlier this year urging him to legislate same-sex marriage.

And the PrideFest parade is proving to be a great opportunity to further publicly express their support, says organiser Jess O’Connell.

She says Qantas, Shell, Synergy, BankWest, PriceWaterhouseCooper and the ANZ are a few that are either organising their own floats (we’ve been told to keep an eye out for the latter’s efforts, which follow a powerful and sensitive advertising campaign urging Aussies to “hold tight for equality”) or sending staff out to join the parade.

The business community’s involvement was an unusual phenomenon in a national vote, though it wasn’t a full-blown referendum (which have seriously gone out of flavour in Australia; there were a staggering 13 in the first 20 years after Federation but we haven’t had one in 18 years and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the last successful one).

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome says corporate support was the key to the likely success of the vote.

“There’s obvious benefits for businesses in Australia in terms of the bottom line to be associated with a reform that’s increasingly popular, particularly amongst young people,” Mr Croome said.

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