Despite homophobic attacks, airline chief doubles down on equal marriage

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An Australian airline chief who suffered homophobic attacks and boycotts has reaffirmed his support for equal marriage.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who is openly gay, has been vilified in Australia in recent weeks after becoming the unlikely figurehead of the equal marriage movement.

Facing a backlash encouraged by the anti-LGBT lobby, Mr Joyce suffered an anti-gay assault with a pie, was abused by government ministers, and even had the country’s most famous tennis star leading a boycott of his company.

That might leave others questioning their course of action, but Mr Joyce insisted this week that marriage equality makes solid business sense.

Eric Joyce

In an interview with Australia’s GQ Magazine, Mr Joyce said he would not be intimidated.

He said: “When you’ve been in this job as long as I have, you get a thick neck on things. You have to be very hard nosed in your approach and your view and not be intimidated by anybody.

“What’s important is that people understand what we’re saying — which is that parliament should just get on and do something about marriage equality, most Australians are fed up with this and just want it to happen.”

The business leader also responded to a homophobic slight from government minister Peter Dutton, who had told Mr Joyce to “stick to his knitting” instead of calling for equal marriage.

Mr Joyce said: “We’re very happy with sticking to our knitting, but our knitting involves being part of the community, and our knitting involves us being outspoken on issues like this.”

According to he added: “There are a lot of shareholders these days that will only invest in companies that have good corporate social responsibility.

“I’ve also had so many employees saying it’s great that Qantas is supporting this cause, because it affects so many of the 30,000 people who work here.”

He cited a study suggesting that minority communities, which together represent 30 percent of a customer base, are important for businesses to cater for.

He said: “If don’t appeal to that segment of the community, the economic impact is going to be huge. Not only do we think it’s morally the right thing to do, there’s a strong business case.”

Australia’s right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly blocked a free parliamentary vote on equal marriage, and has instead focused on attempting to conduct a non-binding public plebiscite.

Opponents have alleged that Turnbull gave private assurances to conservatives within his own party on the issue during his 2015 leadership bid, in order to shore up support.

He allegedly assured right-wingers that he would not permit equal marriage to pass without a public vote.