5 business leaders explain what they'd do if an employee did not support same-sex marriage

Barbara Laborde/ AFP/ Getty Images

With the same-sex marriage postal vote well underway, Australians are amid a national debate about whether marriage equality should become legalised.

The debate reached a peak this week when it was revealed that an 18-year-old woman lost her job for posting on Facebook that she would be voting “No”.

With thousands of businesses publicly supporting the “Yes” vote, we thought we’d ask some business leaders how they would handle an employee against same-sex marriage.

Here’s what they had to say.

Justin Dry, co-founder and co-CEO of Vinomofo

Justin Dry. Photo: Supplied.

We didn’t need to think twice about our stance on marriage equality. At Vinomofo, our culture is inclusive and welcoming of everyone and this issue is something that directly effects many of our team members and our family members; it’s close to our hearts and we cannot be separate from it.

We believe if you have a voice, which we do, we have an obligation to use it and make sure we’re doing everything we can, to make a difference. This isn’t a religious debate, this is a human debate. How can anyone think they should have the right to deny love between two humans?

However we have made it clear to the team that everyone’s individual stance is their right. We have also communicated that our position on the issue is motivated by equality, human rights and our loved ones, it’s not a religious or political stance. We believe that love should not be defined by religious, political or societal constructs and that love is universal, let’s love!

Michael Jankie, chief executive of PoweredLocal

Michael Jankie. Photo: Supplied.

After attending my cousin’s wedding on the weekend, to her beautiful bride, my wife asked me on the way home if I thought that we know anyone who would “vote no”. I suggested that there must be, however unfathomable that opinion would be to us.

That being said, my employees don’t always agree on everything – in fact it’s important they don’t always agree. We have a culture at PoweredLocal that encourages respectful debate. Because of this, we have a pretty good understanding about what we all think about any particular issue, including marriage equality.

And if I did had a staff member that voted no, I wouldn’t have to “handle” them. We know where we sit on these kind of issues because we’ve had those discussions, just like every other Australian has in their homes, schools and places of business, a long time ago.

That’s perhaps what’s most disappointing about this postal survey. The federal government is showing less leadership on this issue than the average Australian has for years. Canberra is so far behind.

Brian McDonnell, director of mid-market and small business at PayPal Australia

Brian McDonnell. Photo: Supplied.

While PayPal believes advocating for the “Yes” vote is in line with our corporate values we also respect the right of every Australian, and of our employees, to conscientiously hold their personal views. We believe in equal opportunity for our employees regardless of race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation and that society as a whole is made better when there is equality and inclusion for all.

Our experience at PayPal is that the individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, and self-expression of our colleagues create our culture and strengthen the fabric of our company’s community. While we encourage our employees to embrace inclusion and diversity across the entire spectrum, we do not believe in discriminating against those who, for genuinely held reasons, have a different view regarding same sex marriage.

PayPal has a rich history in supporting LGBTQI rights and advocating for social equality… In PayPal’s view, discrimination is a destructive force that erodes communities and limits human potential. It also limits a company’s ability to grow and thrive by not allowing every person in an organisation equality and the opportunity to realise their full potential.

PayPal believes that support for same sex marriage is the right thing to do for all our employees and that legalising same sex marriage is the right thing for all Australians.

Melissa Richardson, director of Art of Mentoring

Melissa Richardson. Photo: Supplied.

I voted “Yes”. My personal belief is that any adult should have the right to the status that society and the law accords to a married couple. However, whilst I might argue the case around the dinner table with family and friends, I am more careful with how to approach this issue with members of our business team. I am happy to explain my personal view but do not expect everyone else will share that view.

Our work in the mentoring field trains us to listen carefully first, particularly to understand why someone holds a different perspective on a sensitive issue. Second, it is important to separate the person from their beliefs, and maintain respect for the individual despite having widely different opinions. I would not seek to change their opinion, just to understand it.

Matt Butterworth, CEO of EasyWeddings.com.au

Matt Butterworth. Photo: Supplied.

As a business we fully support same-sex marriage and are advocating for marriage equality on behalf of our company, team, and the majority of the wedding industry. But before we actually made that opinion public we surveyed our entire team anonymously and found that 96% of our employees are in support of same-sex marriage, wi​​th the other 4% undecided. So we are confident that we are supporting an issue that the majority of our staff already believe in.

We’ve applied the same method across our business when it comes to wedding suppliers and the wedding industry as a whole. 93% our wedding suppliers in Australia also support same-sex marriage, as to 82% of the couples who come through our site each year.

But for those employees or wedding suppliers who don’t necessarily agree with us on marriage equality, we’ve also made sure that all of these surveys are anonymous. We don’t think that anyone should be singled out against their co-workers or peers. That goes for the same-sex couples who want to get married, as well as the person who may want to vote “No”.

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