Top Aussie wedding magazine forced out of business for not featuring gay couples

You’ve heard of the fire chief in Atlanta who got fired because he wrote a book containing biblical references critical of homosexuality. And the couple in Oregon who refused to bake a wedding cake for two lesbians. And the Barronelle Stutzman case in Washington state, pitting religious liberty against floral arrangements for a gay wedding.

From Down Under, there’s the Australian version of all this, sort of. A major wedding magazine is closing because it won’t feature gay unions.

Now, the owners of the magazine said nothing to bring this on. But people got suspicious because the magazine wasn’t trotting out the requisite photo shoot of a happy gay couple. Then the advertisers revolted and that was that.

I heard about the magazine in a brief Washington Post piece:

An Australian bridal magazine is shutting down after standing by a controversial decision not to feature same-sex couples.

The founders of White magazine said in a statement Saturday that they have received “a flood of judgment” since making their decision during the same-sex marriage debate and legalization in 2017.

“Instead of allowing us the space to work through our thoughts and feelings, or being willing to engage in brave conversations to really hear each other’s stories, some have just blindly demanded that we pick a side. We’re not about sides, we’re about love, patience and kindness,” Luke and Carla Burrell wrote.

The couple said that magazine staffers, advertisers and even couples who had been featured in the magazine were suddenly “the subject of online abuse despite their individual beliefs.”

“The result has been that a number of advertisers withdrew their sponsorship out of fear of being judged, or in protest. We have had to recognise the reality that White Magazine is no longer economically viable,” their statement read.

We learn the owners are Christians but little else is revealed. The magazine was started 12 years ago and was doing well until the ground shifted under its feet when same-sex marriage was legalized in Australia a year ago.

I found some links in an Anglican publication and a story in the Sidney Morning Herald that shed some light. It was one of the magazine’s own photographers who blew the whistle.

Australia's leading bridal magazine, White, has been criticised by contributors who say the magazine refuses to feature same-sex couples but won't publicly admit it.

Text messages between the magazine's editor and a photographer reveal the publication isn't including gay weddings.

Separately advertisers, photographers, videographers and celebrants have turned to Facebook this week to share stories about their interactions with White.

Many say they've been ignored after they've submitted same-sex content.

Lara Hotz, a lesbian photographer who’d done work for the magazine, blew the whistle.

Ms Hotz, whose images have run on the magazine's cover, reached out in August and November 2017 to ask if White would feature non-heterosexual couples.

She didn't receive a clear response … Ms Hotz, who is married to her female partner, says she feels discriminated against and undervalued by White's previously unspoken policy…

Now, the magazine hadn’t refused Hotz service at all. They worked with her, so it’s hard to argue that she suffered other than all the hurt feelings she’s alleging. Nevertheless, she demanded retribution.

Ms Hotz insists she's not trying to force White to think like her. She simply wants the magazine to be open about its position so people are informed before buying the publication or advertising in it.

She also drove the magazine into the ground. The romance industry has learned that censoring gay couples isn’t going to win friends and many main players (ie the formerly hetero-only Sandals Resorts allowing in same-sex couples in 2004) have changed their tune.

Back to the hapless White magazine, I haven’t seen a ton of commentary from the Aussies on this one except for this piece from the Australian Christian Lobby website.

After setting out the facts of the case,

In recent days, news broke of two shocking religious freedom cases.

White Magazine was hounded out of business after activists became suspicious that they were yet to feature a same-sex wedding. Media coverage, physical threats, advertisers pulled out… Luke and Carla have exited the industry. They have closed their very successful labour of love.

Photographer Jason Tey was sued after he disclosed a ‘conflict of belief’ to a lesbian client in case she wanted to take her business elsewhere. He did not refuse service – in fact; he offered to do the job despite his conflict. The conciliation conference failed, and he is now before the State Administrative Tribunal.

These cases cross a concerning threshold. They are not for overt actions which may be considered discriminatory. They are for two things previously deemed part of our inherent freedoms: in the case of White, for doing nothing. For their silence. In the case of Tey, for merely stating his beliefs. Nothing more than that.

Other outlets like Pink News concentrated on the alleged homophobic angle.

One Facebook commenter raised an interesting point: White didn’t feature Sikh, Muslim or Hindu weddings, either. Does that mean they were anti-religious bigots? Or does it mean that there’s a new standard in town that everyone must acquiesce to? Is this the weaponization of identity politics?

Yeah, you might say that. In the video that comes along with this piece, two commentators say that when Australia passed its same-sex marriage law, everyone was promised there’d be no consequences toward those who dissent on religious grounds.

The Australian featured a video of the couple with a tantalizing glimpse of their religious leanings in the use of “Courage, dear heart,” a quote from Aslan the lion to Lucy Pevensie in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” The video ends with Luke Burrell quoting from Romans 8 about God working all things to everyone’s good. And a statement on their website quotes from 1 Corinthians 13.

None of that gives a hint of their religious journey and how they arrived at this place. I’m hoping a good Aussie journo can ferret out that story. About the consequences the couple has faced, here’s more from the Weekend Australian:

In a sign Australia faces a “crisis of freedom”, The Weekend Australian can ­reveal a successful international wedding magazine that chose not to feature gay couples will today announce its decision to shut down after becoming the target of an intimidation campaign.

The founders of White magazine, Christians Luke and Carla Burrell, said they were the targets of an activist campaign that deterred their advertisers, frightened their staff and included threats of physical harm because of their stand on same-sex weddings...One individual warned their house would be burned down.

Someone (as in this editorial in MercatorNet) needs to call these activists out on how they’re so willing to slam their ideological opponents against a wall and drive them out of business, yet demand to be treated with kid gloves lest someone hurt their feelings. Think of the bloodbath that can — and may — ensue when more of these folks fine-tooth comb their way through other publications to make sure editors and writers employ the correct wording about gay couples.

I would not want to be in the wedding publication business right now. Because even if you bend the knee to gay marriage, trans unions are only a step away.

What’s next, plural marriage?And now you can drive someone out of business for what they didn’t print? The strange times we live in are getting stranger.

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