Some Australian pubs have taken Coopers beer off tap following a backlash against the brewery after it publicly supported the Bible Society, which hosted a debate on same-sex marriage.
As part of a deal with the Bible Society, Coopers released 10,000 cartons of commemorative Premium Light beer. Each can has a “Happy 200th birthday” message to the Bible Society printed on the side, while the cartons sport verses from the Bible.
No money changed hands in the deal, which the Bible Society described as a "bicentennial gift".
The backlash started when the Bible Society hosted a video debate on marriage equality, featuring federal MPs Tim Wilson (who supports same-sex marriage) and Andrew Hastie (who opposes it). It was advertised as the first in a series of “light discussions on the heaviest topics” as part of the campaign.
Many people criticised the debate as trivialising the issue and slammed Coopers for not supporting same-sex marriage – giving rise to the #BoycottCoopers hashtag.
Since the backlash began, Coopers has distanced itself from the video, saying it did not give the Bible Society permission to use its beer in that context.
However, it is sticking by the initial partnership, saying the commemorative cans of beer are to celebrate the Bible Society’s charitable work.
The Bible Society media manager, John Pearson, told BuzzFeed News the organisation did not have an official position on same-sex marriage and the video was meant to “keep it light”.
In the days since this all blew up, several pubs have announced they will no longer stock Coopers, including The 86, George's Bar and The Old Bar in Fitzroy, Melbourne; the Newtown Hotel and the Union Hotel in Newtown; and the Hollywood Hotel in Surry Hills in Sydney.
The Old Bar wrote that it would no longer purchase new stock after it finished the current supply of Coopers.
"It's a sad day for us as over the many years we have built a strong relationship, yet after recent events it is very obvious that our values are at odds," the post read.
The Union Hotel wrote on Facebook that it found the Coopers response to the backlash "strange and underwhelming".
"The call to 'Keep it Light' is particularly upsetting, considering that it is absolutely NOT a light issue for the thousands who are effected [sic] by marriage inequality," the post read.
"We’re huge fans of the beer, but nothing short of genuine public support from Coopers for marriage equality would get us back to pouring their good stuff.
"For now, we’ll be donating a dollar from each schooner sale of these last pale kegs to Beyond Blue."
On Monday, Bible Society media manager John Pearson told BuzzFeed News the Bible Society was not aware of any significant backlash to the campaign.
“As far as I know it’s not negative, I’ve only seen positive reactions,” he said. “We’re certainly not apologising for the campaign.”
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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