Australian marriage-equality debate leads to beer boycott

A debate between two MPs over some beers has seen Coopers Brewery caught up in brouhaha

Australian marriage-equality debate leads to beer boycott

Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie [Vimeo]

One of the biggest independent breweries in Australia has found itself at the centre of a boycott after featuring in an informal debate about same-sex marriage, despite its claims that it had never been contacted by the people behind it.

A number of Australian bars have refused to serve Coopers Brewery beer after it prominently featured in a video produced by the Bible Society of Australia. The video, billed ‘Keeping it Light’, featured two Australian MPs arguing for and against same-sex marriage, which is not legal in the country, as they toast and drink bottles of the beer.

The video, widely panned in the Australian press, has led to claims that the brewery opposes marriage equality, with the negative reaction seeing a growing call for a boycott in many pubs and bars across Australia, despite claims from Coopers that the company has aligned itself with the yes side of the debate.

First rumblings of a scandal

The ‘Keeping it Light’ video first surfaced late last week, featuring Liberal Party parliamentarians Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson (against and for, respectively), weighing in on same-sex marriage in what they call a “civil and respectful way.”

Arguing for the right to marry his long-term partner, Wilson, an openly gay man, says: “I believe that it would be sensible to change the act that deals with issues around civil marriage to include two people regardless of their gender.”

In response, his party colleague Andrew Hastie, a practising Anglican, said: “I’m for retaining the current definition of marriage, which is between a man and a woman.”

The video received significant backlash in Australia, with SBS journalist Chloe Sargeant writing, “Homophobia Lite™ is still homophobia.”

Over the weekend, calls for a boycott first started to surface on social media, with a widely shared video showing two Melbourne men throwing full bottles of Coopers beer in a bin. A number of bars in the Victoria city and Sydney have now vowed to stop serving the beer.

The brewery has since said it “did not give permission” for its beer to be featured in the video, though in the past the brand had celebrated the Bible Society of Australia’s bicentennial with a commemorative advert featuring a number of bible verses. Special cans, toasting the 200th anniversary of the charity, have been cancelled, and Coopers has said it will be joining the pro side group Australian Marriage Equality.

Responding to the brewery’s moves to distance itself from the video, MP Andrew Hastie attacked Australia’s “progressive left,” calling the beer company’s decision a “craven capitulation,” showing “little spine.”

His debate opponent Tim Wilson also criticised the boycott calls, describing the brewery brouhaha showed how quick some people are to create a non-existent scandal.

“I’m disappointed Coopers appears to have distanced themselves from a sensible conversation that they should be proud to align themselves with,” Wilson said.

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