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Sydney Symphony changes position on same-sex marriage after protest

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The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has this morning announced a change in its position on same-sex marriage, following significant protest against its ‘neutral’ stance.

In a Facebook post published this morning, the SSO’s Board says it has reconsidered its position and will publicly support a ‘yes’ vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey.

On Thursday, the orchestra announced it was taking a neutral stance on same-sex marriage, and not supporting either side in the debate. This move came after arts figure and former SSO Chair Leo Schofield blasted the current Board in a widely-shared Facebook post.

Since then, the SSO has come under a huge amount of pressure on social media to change its stance. Daily Review has also learnt that significant donors had expressed disappointment to the orchestra and may have even threatened to withdraw their support over the ‘neutral’ stance.

Now, the musicians have expressed their support for marriage equality, and the Board has changed its position.

Emma Dunch, the SSO’s incoming Chief Executive Officer, also shared a message to the orchestra’s Facebook page.

She wrote: “As the incoming Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra next January and an out, gay leader, I am proud to express my personal and professional commitment to advancing equality and inclusion for the LGBTQIA community, and to affirm my unflinching support for marriage equality. I believe that same-sex marriage is inevitable in Australia, and that this outcome is right and just.

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

See the Board’s new statement below.


“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.

“This decision has the overwhelming support of the SSO’s musicians and staff.”

28 responses to “Sydney Symphony changes position on same-sex marriage after protest

  1. I’m sad that the Sydney Symphony Orchestra administration did not initially recognise its commitment to equality and fairness and only changed its stance after prolonged, strong criticism.
    I’m sad because those opposed to fairness and equality will now use this about-turn as a weapon and attack the yes vote advocates for forcing people to adopt their stance.

    1. I’m sad that those who don’t support SSM within the SSO are now being told what they have to believe. How is that fair and equal?
      Not approving SSM does not impede anyone’s right to love whoever they want to love.

    1. Thanks, John, let’s hope your ‘No’ vote doesn’t contribute to the bullying of more many young people, especially young, creative people in rural and regional Australia, into taking their lives just so your pride can remain intact.

      1. Dear Pat, could you please provide documented evidence published in an Australian newspaper of bully in Australian schools causing a single death.
        If you can’t find any, then a court case will suffice. If you still can’t provide any well… may be it’s because there isn’t any. No bully will EVER justify indoctrinating an extra 10% of our children to change their gender at birth and commit subsequent suicide!!!
        Prove your claim that in Australia bully has caused a single death. And not by the ABC either, it has to in a newspaper.

          1. Dear Deb,
            That link does not answer Phillip’s question.
            Please provide evidence of how failing to support SSM will lead to an increase in suicides?
            This debate is not about the rights of people to be gay and to love someone of the same sex. This debate is about changing the traditional view of marriage.
            Without SSM, the LGBTI community will continue to be loved and supported. Just because someone doesn’t agree with SSM doesn’t mean they don’t love the LGBTI community.

        1. A good friend of mine committed suicide 2 weeks ago after internalising all the hate he was reading. I can’t provide you evidence because Australian media doesn’t usually publish suicides (and I am grateful about this), and obviously it is not possible to survey people who have died, so can you please stop asking

          1. Hi David,
            It might be good to take some time and just re-read and think through what you have written.

            If you do support and love the LGBTI community as you say, you cannot possibly believe that the members of LGBTI community won’t be hurt because they are not treated as equals in marriage. While sadly we will only be able to prove after the fact that a NO vote led to more suicides, there is already clear research that a YES vote will decreased suicide. Research that shows that in countries and jurisdictions that have legalised same-sex marriage, there is a much smaller gap between the rates of poor mental health among same-sex attracted and heterosexual people. The research has found the rate of youth suicide attempts among gay and lesbian youths dropped by 14 per cent where same sex marriage was made legal. There was also a 7 per cent drop in suicide attempts among young people more broadly where the laws were introduced.

            Just because something is a tradition does not mean it shouldn’t be changed. Throughout Australian history we have changed many traditions which no longer reflect societal expectations – it was a tradition (and law) that women had to leave employment once they were married, and it was a tradition that divorce was only available to men and had to be granted by an Act of Parliament.

    2. Hmm.. What do you call it when a minority are forced to beg for equal access to a legal institution? ‘Bullying’ pretty well covers it. Stick your no vote where the sun don’t shine- I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

  2. The SSO’s “… long commitment to inclusiveness, equality and fairness – publicly to proclaim its support for the yes vote … plainly advances each of those ideals,” is absolutely right. I congratulate the orchestra for seeing the plain truth of this.

  3. Thst is exactly what it is intimidation bullying which is really frightening of the ssm supporters bully like this now heaven help us for the future we are going to need really strong leaders who will write fool proof laws to protect us from safe schools and more Intimidation like this shame on you Sydney Symphony Company for being so weak and not standing with your original beliefs which were fair and reasonable so sad.

  4. For those who perceive this volte-face to be the result of bullying by the “yes camp”, please take the time to read the responses on Facebook to the original post. Some heated responses, yes, but mostly people expressing disappointment and letting SSO know that they disagree with their statement. That expression and disagreement is not bullying, it’s free speech. Please try to avoid conflating someone expressing a view you disagree with, and bullying. In the interests of a respectful debate.

  5. I congratulate the SSO for making an informed decision.

    There will be many who will be struggling with a decision.
    The SSO can now serve as a model/example to others having difficulty making a decision on this and other equality decisions.

    Not to make a decision is making a decision not to be involved, not to be making a stand, not to be counted, and not to honour the community we all belong to.

    When undecided it speaks to our integrity if we should then consult, gather factual information, examine our responsibility to those we love, put ourselves in the shoes of others with different experiences to ourselves, think outside ourselves and interrogate our conscience.
    Equality has moral, human, compassionate, respect, inclusiveness components as well as an intellectual, philosophical, economic and political aspects.

    It is not beyond us as individuals to work through all this. However, it is tougher for organisations.

    It is a credit to the SSO that they were prepared to reexamine their decision not to make a decision, to then consult more widely, and to be more courageous about taking a position. Well done.

  6. The YES support will over the medium term substantially reduce financial contributions to the SSO. You are playing the wrong tune when you support Marxist activists wishing to destroy our institutions.
    65% of the Australian community will not punish you for supporting the Yes vote but will lose respect for your lack ok judgement.

  7. Well done SSO. You stood tall and proud and made your stand. Love will conquer all and you have made 100s of 1000s of people happy and proud. XO

    1. “Stood tall and proud” you’ve got to be kidding. They wobbled like a bowl full of jelly before a bunch of bullies and handed over their lunch money and begged to be allowed to do their homework for them.

  8. Although I applaud the position the SSO have taken on same-sex marrige, the process to get there has been shameful. To be bullied/intimidated/coerced into this position by financial backers of the SSO to change from their neutral stand, really plays into the No-campaign’s long-standing argument of bullying by the Yes-campaign. Not really helping the cause. Hmmm!

  9. I’m sorry to hear the SSO has succumbed to the pressure of the completely unrelated marriage issue. It seems you do not have the nerve to stick to your integrity. You don’t just belong to Circular Quay and your unfaithfulness to the silent majority is on show now.
    I will have to re-consider my subscription for years to come, not just 2018.
    Fortunately your board does not represent classical music lovers, only transgenders, gays, lesbians, loss of freedom and abusive school’s Marxist ideologies. You are now equally responsible for the suicide of 18,000 additional children in transition.
    Meantime classical music lives… elsewhere.

  10. I absolutely deplore the stance taken by SSO.
    Rather than individuals being free to vote according to their beliefs and conscience, we have seen national leaders, VIP’s and large organisations publicly speaking out in support of the YES vote, even the NRL allowing a rap singer to perform a song in support of the YES vote to thousands of fans who may or may not have chosen to identify with the sentiments,.
    If this is not bullying I don’t know what is. The pressure tactics from the YES advocates is incredible. This is not democracy, just another powerful pressure group.

    1. I am very disappointed in the SSO taking this stand on the yes vote. Tens of thousands op people have supported your programs over the years and if you couldn’t support the NO vote for traditional marriage, then a neutral stand would have been more acceptable than changing to a yes vote. Really, it has nothing to do with ‘equality.’
      Many of your supporters would be ‘NO’ voters.
      I hope you encourage your members to vote according to their conscience.
      VOTE NO TO SAME SEX MARRIAGE for the sake of traditional marriage, our children and our society.

  11. How can this be justified…disgraceful response from this group. More bullying from the thugs demanding far more than ssm…shame on the lot of you selling out our children’s future and well being. It is still a NO from me and mine.

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