The Sydney Symphony Orchestra had a massive change of heart on same-sex marriage

The SSO’s incoming CEO, Emma Dunch (right) and her partner Elizabeth Scott. Source: Facebook

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) board has declared it is in favour of same-sex marriage in a stunning turnaround on its widely criticised position last week to remain neutral on the issue.

It’s believed incoming CEO Emma Dunch, who has been in a same-sex relationship for 17 years, played a key role in the change of heart.

The board subsequently issued a statement, saying: “The Sydney Symphony Orchestra initially decided that it should remain neutral on this question, taking the view that as a matter of principle it would not take a position that might be seen to commit its wide range of stakeholders to one side or the other.

“In doing so, the Board now acknowledges that it misjudged the need for such an organisation – with its long commitment to inclusiveness, equality and fairness – publicly to proclaim its support for the yes vote which plainly advances each of those ideals.”

Last week arts festival director Leo Schofield, who was the SSO’s inaugural chairman between 1996 and 2000, labelled the board “craven” after it announced that it “does not feel it has the right to take a position”.

The SSO’s stance put it at odds with a range of sporting, business and arts companies backing the “Yes” campaign and sparked widespread criticism.

Yesterday, the SSO posted a message from Dunch on its Facebook page, along with a “yes” campaign image.

Dunch said “artists and their art have long played an important role in challenging accepted norms”.

The orchestra’s new boss, who takes over in January, is returning to Australia with her partner, Elizabeth Scott, after 20 years in New York, and said she was grateful for the “terrifically warm welcome we have received from the SSO’s Board, staff and musicians”.

Dunch said same-sex marriage “is inevitable in Australia” and the orchestra’s new position was “right and just”.

“Over the weekend, I have joined the SSO’s musicians, staff, and Board members in discussions that have helped clarify the organisation’s position in support of marriage equality in Australia,” she said.

“I deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness that has been brought to bear throughout a respectful and nuanced dialogue. I know that there are very diverse views across Australia on this issue, and I respect the Board’s commitment to encouraging every Australian to develop his or her own opinion, and to vote.

“For me, this is about more than my own identity. Personally, I believe that our society and its institutions are made stronger and more vibrant by the diversity of the individuals who people them. And I believe that denying those of us in same-sex relationships the civil rights accorded the married is the antithesis of the Aussie ‘fair go’ and perpetuates profound inequality. I hope that my home country will soon be one that validates my committed relationship of 17 years.”

Leo Schofield congratulated and thanked the SSO board “for acknowledging the importance of the current debate to so many musicians, staff and patrons of this magnificent orchestra”.

“Their swift and generous response to a situation that may have damaged their paramount standing in Australia’s musical life is a mark of generosity and courage,” he said.

Here’s the message the SSO musicians posted on the orchestra’s Facebook page.

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