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Australian CEOs Come Out For Marriage Equality

"Marriage has evolved. We're asking for the next stage of evolution."

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Speaking on Tuesday morning, the panel discussed why Australia's corporate sector should speak out in support of marriage equality.

Organised by lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, speakers included Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Diversity Council CEO Lisa Annese, Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry and SBS CEO Michel Ebeid, along with Australia Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome.

Croome said that if the upcoming referendum in Ireland and Supreme Court decision in the United States decide in favour of marriage equality, Australia will be the only developed, English-speaking nation in the world where same-sex couples cannot marry.

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Openly gay CEOs Alan Joyce and Michael Ebeid spoke about how supporting marriage equality can positively affect businesses and employees.

"We want all the people who come to work every day to feel equal. To feel that they can contribute equally in the organisation, and in the country," Joyce said.

"So any piece of legislation that still says 'You're different', 'You're second class', 'You don't have the same rights as everybody else', is bad for everybody's position."

"One of the biggest things we can do as a society, as a community, is say 'It's alright to be gay'."

He added that diversity within a company strengthens business strategy, and making LGBT people feel welcome can only be a good thing.

"The broader market supports [marriage equality] and a good company would get behind it."

Michael Ebeid also said supporting marriage equality would benefit businesses by making Australia a more attractive location to work and invest.

Panelists were in furious agreement about the importance of people being themselves at work, and fostering a welcoming company culture.

"I want people to be open about who they areā€¦ I want them to bring their brains to work, not park a piece of themselves at the door," said Ann Sherry.

Michael Ebeid agreed, saying discrimination often means people "don't bring their full selves to work".

Ebeid spoke about his own experiences as a gay man in the workplace, saying he would try to hide his sexuality from colleagues.

"I used to use up so much energy worrying people would find out," he said.

"I didn't want to be known as the gay CEO. I was a CEO who just happened to be gay," he said.

However, after receiving letters from people struggling with their sexuality, Joyce decided being publicly out was crucial.

"It does make a difference," he said. "If you do it, you can save people's lives."

As for people who cling to the "traditional" definition of marriage, Joyce pointed out the definition has changed extensively over time.

"Marriage has evolved. We're asking for the next stage of evolution."

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