Business representative body Be.Bendigo’s support of same-sex marriage has been welcomed by the LGBTI community and those calling for a ‘yes’ vote in the upcoming postal survey on the issue.
On Tuesday, Be.Bendigo released a video featuring various local business owners talking about why they supported marriage equality, along with a statement.
Those appearing in the video said making a public statement was about supporting friends and family, and taking a stance that people should be able to marry who they loved.
University student Alex Collins said it was easy to get caught up in the hateful messages that had emerged in the lead-up to the postal survey and forget the support that was out there, but seeing supportive posters and hearing such statements was “heartwarming”.
Ashlyn McDonald said it was important to see the business community, as such a large part of the wider Bendigo community, coming out in support of LGBTI residents.
For Jack Surplice, the stance was a demonstration of standing up for the values of love, equality and fairness.
Tash Joyce, co-chair of the Bendigo Says Yes campaign, said she thought the business community’s position would influence those who still on the fence about the issue to vote in support of marriage equality in the upcoming postal survey.
Ms Joyce said the public show of support would normalise the concept of same-sex marriage and demonstrate that it was nothing to be concerned about.
Many of her friends were struggling with the “nastiness” that had surfaced since the postal survey was announced, she said, but to have the business community show support made them feel safer.
At the announcement of Be.Bendigo’s position on Tuesday, chief executive officer Leah Sertori said diversity, tolerance and inclusion were key to achieving the business community’s goal of a vibrant and prosperous community.
Ms Sertori said the organisation and its members wanted to send a message to the LGBTI community that they mattered.
For those who might argue that it was not the place of a business organisation to take such a stance, Ms Sertori said it was, as it was not only a social issue but an economic one.
She said if cities like Bendigo were to prosper, they needed to attract talented, skilled people, among whom were members of the LGBTI community.
Ms Sertori said the response from members had been “overwhelmingly positive” and there had been no negative feedback.
Bendigo Says Yes co-chair Harry McAnulty said the campaign was talking to the council about supporting the LGBTI community in this time, and would continue to have conversations with business leaders in an effort to ensure Bendigo as a whole returned a ‘yes’ vote to the survey.
Tim Peppard, from the Australian Marriage Equality campaign, thanked Be.Bendigo for taking its stance.
“It’s very significant that Be.Bendigo publicly supports the campaign, because it emphasises that Australia is a country of the fair go, and that regional Victoria supports the rights of its LGBTI community,” Mr Peppard said.
“But also, it makes good business sense for members of Be.Bendigo to have an open and inclusive environment.”