Over time, Coopers has found itself a pretty magical niche in the beer market: they’re wholly Australian-owned and family run; the beers themselves are good enough that they’ll please most people who usually go for craft beer, while at the same time not being as exotic or alienating as something like, say, a grapefruit saison; and, most importantly, the beer is still pretty cheap.

When people were boycotting CUB over their decision to sack a bunch of workers and offer to rehire them with a 65% pay cut, Coopers earned a lot of goodwill by being, well, not CUB. But now they’ve fucked it. They’ve fucked it real hard.

The brewery is now facing a similar boycott campaign over their involvement with a video by the Bible Society which proposed “keeping it light” (they were drinking light beer, what an amazing joke) when debating the issue of gay marriage. The video presented each side of the debate with two people from wildly different backgrounds: white middle-aged Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and white middle-aged Liberal MP Tim Wilson.

How the fuck did this come about, I hear you ask? Seemingly as a tie-in to Coopers releasing a light beer commemorating the 200 years of charitable work done by the Bible Society (complete with bible verses on the carton), the Bible Society announced that they had “teamed up with Coopers Premium Light” to help spread the word of the Lord. Yes, for reals:

“Australia’s national conversation has become fraught with shallowness and contempt for those who have a differing opinion. From yelling matches on ABC’s Q&A to screed on Twitter, we just don’t seem to be able to talk anymore. And the more important the topic, the less we actually hear each other.

“To speak into this, Bible Society Australia has teamed up with Coopers Premium Light to ask Australians to try “Keeping it Light” – a creative campaign to reach even more Australians with God’s word – and this time we’re doing so in a rather unexpected way.

“As part of this partnership Bible Society Australia has accepted a Bicentenary tribute from Coopers Brewery to produce a Bicentenary limited edition Premium Light beer and we’ve also hosted some light discussions on the heaviest topics. Starting with the topic of same-sex marriage.”

On the surface, this seems pretty harmless, if a bit weird. They want people to be nicer to each other while discussing the issues – that’s pretty nice, right? The problem with these sorts of things is that framing marriage equality as a respectful debate we should be having requires there to be two positions which are legitimate and rationally defensible.

Outside of the fact that it’s absolutely ridiculous to have this debate discussed by two men who are both members of a party that has stated it will take no action on marriage equality, it’s absurd to suggest that the problem with the marriage equality conversation is that we’re not listening enough to people who object to it on religious grounds.

It’s an issue that can’t really be solved by debate because it’s never been about facts. If the argument that marriage is for the creation of children was true, straight couples that didn’t plan to have kids or couldn’t for medical reasons would be barred from the institution as well. If it was about children needing a mother and a father, the opponents of same-sex marriage would also be working hard to make sure single parents had their children taken away.

Not only have studies found that children raised by same-sex couples tend to be as happy (if not happier) as their hetero-raised counterparts, literally none of the countries that have legalised it have since also legalised human-horse marriage like the religious right thought they would.

What would debate even achieve? Compromise? One side is asking for equal treatment in regards to marriage and the other side is asking for that not to happen because of some stuff in the Bible. The issue is a binary one, there’s no middle ground – you either have same-sex marriage or you don’t. Giving same-sex couples secular alternatives like civil unions (or some sort of “Marriage-B”) still just reinforces the idea that they are not fully recognised in the eyes of society, essentially second class citizens.

Not to mention that “keeping it light” is wildly condescending. It’s all well and good for opponents of marriage equality to keep it light-hearted, they have nothing at stake: if marriage equality becomes a reality they lose nothing, nothing bad happens to them or their marriages. Society continues running more or less as it was, all they have to deal with is their mild distaste at queer people getting to share in the same institution as them.

For queer people, though, this debate is their actual lives. The fight for queer people to be equally recognised in society is very real and very ongoing. Australia’s continuing refusal to catch up the rest of the world just legitimises the beliefs of those who don’t really believe that gay couples are couples and that they have the same weight and meaning in society as heterosexual couples do.

Respectfully, I am not going to keep it light.

What’s Wrong With Coopers Asking Us To “Keep It Light” About SSM?

For the record, Coopers have been quickly trying to distance themselves from the video. Despite the Bible Society describing it as a collaboration, the brewery has said they didn’t endorse the use of their beer for the video and that no money changed hands. Awkward. 

Considering that Coopers has also been an extremely generous donor to the Liberal Party, though, it’s not that far out of their wheelhouse. In future, I would probably recommend sticking to beer. Just a suggestion.

Photo: Keeping It Light.