New Zealand dismisses complaints against Pope equal marriage blessing advert

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The Advertising Standards Authority in New Zealand has dismissed complaints about a new advert which depicts Pope Benedict XVI blessing a gay couple’s wedding, saying it is unlikely to cause widespread offence.

The advert, for the power company Powershop, features the slogan “Same Power, Different Attitude,” and was erected on four-and-a-half story billboards in Auckland and Wellington.

The ASA dismissed four complaints that the advert “mocked Catholicism”, reports Queerty.

One such complaint, made by B Pender, said that it “is offensive to me as a Christian as it features two males exchanging rings as part of a marriage ceremony in the presence of The Pope…it is attempting to imply that the Catholic Church and The Vatican condone same sex marriage despite no formal communication of said claim.”

The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, passed its first reading on 22 August, with a majority of 80 votes to 40 in parliament in support of the change.

A spokesperson for the ASA, Jenny Robson, said that the advert didn’t prompt enough complaints to be considered offensive.

Ari Sargent, the Powershop chief executive, said: “It kind of reflects the feedback that we’ve got from the general public. Yes, there was some vocal opposition but, by in large, people saw it for what it was and didn’t find it particularly offensive.”

The Vatican has made it clear on several occasions that it opposes global moves towards marriage equality, most recently when its semi-official newspaper published a front page article linking equal marriage to communism, and saying it “deceives humanity.” 

On 14 November, following marriage equality victories in the US, the Vatican, in what appeared to be an effort to brush off the moves towards equality, launched a new wave of efforts to strenghthen its opposition to LGBT rights, using newspapers and radio broadcasts to describe equal marriage as ”intrinsically disordered”, and to compare it to polygamy and polyandry.

Just before Christmas, a controversial church billboard in New Zealand was unveiled, which raised the question of whether or not Jesus might have been gay.