The controversial Bible Society video featuring two Liberal MPs drinking Coopers beer could have been a good opportunity to convince people of faith about same-sex marriage, leading advocates say.
The video debate, hosted by the Bible Society and featuring federal MPs Tim Wilson (who supports same-sex marriage) and Andrew Hastie (who opposes it), has generated significant controversy since its release late last week.
It features Coopers beer and was released by the Bible Society as part of the "Keeping It Light" campaign, in which the organisation partnered with Coopers Brewery for its 200th birthday.
But drinkers reacted with fury – criticising Coopers for partnering with the Bible Society, for not openly supporting marriage equality, and for treating the issue as a "light" topic in the video debate (Coopers has denied any involvement in the video). It sparked the #BoycottCoopers hashtag and led to several pubs taking Coopers off tap.
The brewery has since retreated from the deal, apologised for any offence caused, and announced its support for marriage equality.
But some leading same-sex marriage advocates say the brewery brouhaha may have missed the potential benefits of having the Bible Society host such a debate.
Veteran marriage equality campaigner Rodney Croome told BuzzFeed News the 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.
"Moreover, 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."
Canberra man John Kloprogge has been involved in the marriage equality movement for over a decade, and was a co-founder of the Melbourne group Equal Love in 2005.
He told BuzzFeed News it "contributes to the campaign" to have people on the political right debate marriage equality.
"I can understand why a lot of people are upset with Coopers and the Bible Society and the two MPs. I can understand particularly how people say the debate was diminishing the importance of the issue and trivialising it by 'keeping it light'," he said.
"But nevertheless, I think it's better to have that debate than no debate at all... There is still absolutely value in having politicians on the political right grapple with the issue. Because if they didn’t, we would just just see the status quo continue.
"Of course I agree with the sentiment that the time for debate is over, but saying that is not getting us any closer to marriage equality."
On Tuesday evening, Coopers executives released a video statement saying the company would axe the release of Bible Society cans and join Australian Marriage Equality.
"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," said managing director Tim Cooper.
In a statement, the Bible Society said it understood and respected Coopers' decision.
"We're sad and sorry that a conversation (not a debate or an argument) on an important issue for our community has provoked such a flame war," the statement said.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at email@example.com.
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