Following the announcement that companies would provide ‘acceptance rings’ to all employees, Marriage Alliance’s CEO Damian Wyld spoke to 2CH’s Kel Richards about what this means for the freedom of employees in the workplace.
Kel Richards: I want to go back to a story we talked about earlier in the program because this week, some big companies, big corporations took another step to make Christians feel excluded in the workplace.
On Monday of this week Qantas and Google announced that they would provide all staff with these ‘acceptance rings’, little black plastic rings to show support for changing marriage, for redefining marriage. Black plastic rings that are meant to be worn to show that the wearer supports gay marriage.
Now, that raises some questions, doesn’t it? Does this increase in workplace shaming, and possible bullying for those who don’t want to redefine marriage? Are they going to feel uncomfortable? Are they still free to disagree?
Damian Wyld from Marriage Alliance joins me now. Damian, good evening! Welcome to the program.
Damian Wyld: Hello, Kel. Thanks for having me.
Kel Richards: Now, before we talk about what the corporates are doing, just explain to me what this idea of the ‘acceptance rings’ are? What do they look like? What are they meant to be saying and doing?
Damian Wyld: Sure. Kel, the idea of this ‘acceptance ring’ – it’s a cheap tacky piece of plastic, which forms an incomplete ring, that people who support the push to redefine marriage are being asked to wear, particularly in the corporate field. The idea of this incomplete ring being that marriage is somehow incomplete until we redefine it to extend to same-sex couples as well.
Kel Richards: Right.
Damian Wyld: Kel, can I just say at the outset that the idea that marriage is somehow incomplete as an institution, as an idea, I find personally offensive. You know, we’re told that redefining marriage won’t affect us. Well we’re already being told that somehow the very institution that many of us are party to, myself as a married man, we’re somehow lacking or incomplete. I think a large number of your listeners would find that offensive.
Kel Richards: In fact, now that you’ve pointed it out, it is offensive for me to be told my marriage is damaged in some way. I mean, how dare they say something like that to 25 million Australians?
Damian Wyld: Exactly, exactly.
Kel Richards: Can I just, before we get on to the corporates, can I just say the whole idea of a black ring strikes me as being weird. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I associate black with darkness and all the rest of it, and I thought of The Lord of the Rings. You’re going to tell me I’m strange Damian.
Damian Wyld: [laughing] No! I had the same thought.
Kel Richards: ‘One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring the bring them all and in the darkness bind them.’ And I thought, ‘I can see the parallel.’
Damian Wyld: Absolutely. It’s most apt.
Kel Richards: Now, the problem is the risk of this being forced upon people. So, what are corporates doing with these black rings?
Damian Wyld: Well we’ve already seen a number of corporate bodies jump on board, Airbnb being one of the driving forces, Qantas and Google, for example. And Google has created 1,300 of them for their employees, which sort of begs the question: ‘What about those who don’t want to wear it?’ They’ve already gone ahead, apparently, and made 1,300 of these regardless. You know, the idea of the pressure and the bullying, it’s implicit even if it’s not explicit. The idea that in the workplace, you know, ‘you’ll be asked to’, it’s ‘voluntary’, it’s ‘fine’. But the concept of peer pressure, it’s a powerful thing, really, and when you’re being asked to identify in the workplace as a ‘believer’ or ‘unbeliever’ that’s a very dangerous thing. We’ve been in those sorts of waters before in history.
Kel Richards: Indeed, and in fact Miranda Devine has been speaking to some people at Qantas and she’s been quoting, and they’re careful to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves, but she’s been talking to people at Qantas who are saying, “I feel uncomfortable about this.” And instead of bringing teams together it will divide them. So if you’ve got half the cabin crew wearing black rings and half the cabin crew not wearing black rings, I mean, this for a corporation seems like an extremely divisive thing to do.
Damian Wyld: Absolutely. I mean, we’re told it’s all about inclusion and tolerance. It’s just another example of how intolerant the ‘tolerant’ are.
Kel Richards: Yes. I mean, there are examples, and it’s happened more in Britain than here of people being told you can’t wear a gold cross. What would happen if staff at Qantas or Google or people connected with Airbnb or whoever, said, “Ok, I won’t wear your black ring. I’ll wear a little gold cross on my lapel.” What is that going to do to the company? What is that going to do to the staff?
Damian Wyld: Well, I think that that person would probably get short shrift pretty quickly. You know, as you say, we have seen examples from overseas, whether it be a cross, a crucifix, or any similar sort of apparel. The tolerance threshold for those things seems to be much, much lower.
Kel Richards: We had the chairman of Qantas write up a letter to The Australian this week defending Qantas taking a public stand on what is very much a social engineering issue. His argument was ‘this is a civil rights issue’. It seems to me the high court of Australia has ruled it’s not a civil rights issue, so he’s ill-informed. But the question I want to ask him, Damian, is: ‘How many presentations have there been to the board? Have you heard both sides of the case? Or have you not bothered to have any presentations to the board? Who are you speaking for?’
I think these corporate positionings are really, really dubious things.
Damian Wyld: I think so, Kel. There are quite a few corporations now that have supposedly, either through their CEO flying under his own banner or as an entity have thrown their support behind the marriage redefinition campaign. But as you say, the question of how informed their board is, how informed their shareholders are, that’s another matter entirely. That’s why in the last week Marriage Alliance, in particular, we responded to all of these happenings by launching an open letter to the directors of many of these companies, on whether they are willing to stand behind their CEOs’ actions, and whether they are willing to ensure that their staff are not in any way bullied or discriminated against on the basis of their beliefs on marriage. I mean, it’s very important that they be permitted to have freedom of expression, it really is.
Kel Richards: Freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion are foundational to our democracy, and are clearly under threat here. I mean, I can understand the Qantas board deciding to back their CEO Alan Joyce, who is openly gay and who defends gay marriage. But that’s his position, and they’re making it sound as if they’re speaking for every shareholder, every staff member, and every customer. And they surely do not have the authority to do that, and it becomes coercive when they make that pretence. Now, have you had any replies back from any of the company directors yet?
Damian Wyld: No. Not surprisingly. And I’m certainly not expecting to get a response from Mr. Joyce. I mean I’m reminded of his infamous comment quite some time ago now that basically, ‘if you don’t support this campaign, you won’t be able to bank, you won’t be able to fly’. I think that’s pretty much where their head is at.
Kel Richards: It’s a threating, bullying attitude isn’t it? Now just to get back to the black rings, or the so-called ‘acceptance rings’: Is this going to work? Is this going to catch on? Are people going to be wearing this all over the place? Are we going to be seeing people in the streets with these things? What do you think the future holds for this particular bit of campaigning?
Damian Wyld: I’ve been asked that a lot, Kel, in the last few days. We’ve seen a growth in marriage redefinition branding over the last few years. It started with the rainbow flags, we’ve seen equal signs, we’ve seen some of their slogans, and now this ring is just the latest in a string. I think it’s too early to tell, but I’d like to think it’s just a fad, it’s just a gimmick, and it will pass. We do see a lot of people in public life, whether it be Parliamentarians and others support various campaigns, you know, a ribbon for this or a flower for that. But I’d like to think that people will see through this one. It’s not about inclusion. It’s not about, as you said, a human right. This is about a bullying campaign, peer pressure and intimidation. I think people are starting to see that with all the happenings of the last few weeks – whether it be our friends at Coopers being bullied, the gentleman from IBM being pressured to leave the board of a Christian training organisation – I think people have just had enough, and this ring has come on the back of all of that.
Kel Richards: Yep. And it’s being seen for what it is. OK, Damian Wyld, thank you for taking the time to chat to us!
Damian Wyld: A pleasure, Kel, thank you.