“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.
Australia’s Parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage in December 2017, joining many countries, including the United States, that now recognize such unions.
And as in many other countries, there was an impassioned debate leading up to the vote, which gained widespread support from people across the country. While debating the issue in Australia’s House of Representatives, one lawmaker, Liberal Party member Tim Wilson, paused for a moment and proposed to his longtime partner, saying the same-sex marriage debate had been “the soundtrack” to their relationship.
The founders of White magazine, who are Christian, said they created the publication more than a decade ago to celebrate relationships. During the same-sex marriage debate, the couple said, people began asking why the magazine did not feature same-sex couples in its pages.
“We started getting messages then: ‘You’re the only magazine in Australia that’s not showing your support. Come on, guys, jump on board. Move forward with 2018.’ But then there was always something that just stopped us because we just didn’t want to enter into that conversation — that wasn’t a loving conversation — and add heat to a hot conversation,” Carla Burrell said in a video statement on the magazine’s website.
But her husband, Luke, said that the couple understood why their decision was contentious.
“The accusations that it’s unfair that at this time we’re not featuring same-sex marriage, I get that that can be hurtful. People feel that’s unfair,” he said in the video.
But, Luke Burrell added: “Why are values becoming more important than relationships? Why can’t we have diversity in our thoughts and feelings? I think without those things, we’re not progressing.”
The announcement drew a wide range of responses on social media — some from people saying they are “heartbroken” by the magazine’s closure and others telling the founders, “You reap what you sow.”
“Love is love. And as a business you should have been able to put your personal religious beliefs aside,” one person commented on the magazine’s farewell statement on Facebook. “It’s unfortunate it had to come to this I would have loved to see beautiful same sex couples grace your covers or read story’s about their love, but you chose to censor that.”
Another wrote, “I guess all the ones who preached to us last year that love is love, about tolerance and acceptance actually don’t practise what they preach and are the exact opposite of what they claim.
“Things like this are not a surprise and were no doubt what a lot of people were intending to do.”
Some, however, praised the founders for standing up for their beliefs.
“What a beautiful, brave conversation — encouraging listening, choosing relationships over our own beliefs,” one wrote. “We as a society scream for diversity, yet when it comes to diversity of beliefs there is just no room. I am sorry it has come to this for you both, can’t wait to see what’s next.”
There have been similar debates in the United States, where some ministers have declined to marry gay couples and businesses have refused to provide services for the wedding ceremonies. Perhaps one of the most highly publicized cases was in Colorado, where a Christian baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the baker.