One of Australia's top wedding magazines has closed down after they were abandoned in droves by advertisers over the Christian owners' refusal to feature same-sex couples.
Luke and Carla Burrell, the owners of White magazine, stated in a "farewell" message on their website on Saturday that their intention during their 12 years of existence was to celebrate marriage with a focus on love and commitment.
They explained that ever since Australia voted to legalize same-sex marriage in November 2017, they have continuously been asked why they do not feature all couples, including gay couples, in their magazine.
“Like many people, we have had to reflect on our beliefs, not to judge ourselves or others, but to intentionally make space for new conversations. It’s a long and continuing journey, it’s not black and white, there are so many grey areas that need to be explored. Our greatest mandate is to love and the biggest question we’ve continued to ask ourselves throughout it is, how do we best love?” the Burrells wrote.
“White Magazine has always been a secular publication, but as its publishers, we are Christian. We have no agenda but to love. We have no desire to create a social, political or legal war, which only divides people further and does more damage than good. To us, our faith is anchored in love without judgement."
They noted that they have been experiencing a "flood of judgment" over their stance, however, and said that like everyone else, they don't have all the answers.
"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," the couple said.
"A campaign was launched targeting the magazine, our team and our advertisers. Couples who have featured in our magazine have also been the subject of online abuse despite their individual beliefs. We’re really saddened by this."
In a video, Luke Burrell lamented that people's beliefs have been tearing families and friendships apart, not just in Australia but also in America.
He pointed to friends he has in America and a "friend of theirs might have been a Trump voter and they just cut off all their friends that didn’t agree with them."
"Why are values becoming more important than relationship? Why can’t we have diversity in our thoughts and feelings? I think without those things, we’re not progressing," he underscored.
They shared that several advertisers have since withdrawn their sponsorship "out of fear of being judged, or in protest."
"We have had to recognize the reality that White Magazine is no longer economically viable," the owners revealed, adding that as much as they love what they do, they must "draw the curtain on this part of our lives, for now."
Photographer Lara Hotz, who carried out work for the magazine, was among those who criticized the magazine for its stance earlier this year.
Hotz said in August that "as a wedding photographer in the industry for the past 14 years, and having had three of my images printed on White Magazine covers.... this makes me feel extremely hurt," referring to the magazine only featuring heterosexual couples.
Last year, 61.6 percent of Australians voted in a national referendum to legalize gay marriage. The change took effect in December.
Mainstream churches warned at the time that free speech rights need to be respected. Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies said that there must be respect for people who disagree with changing the definition of marriage.
"The consequences then are — what happens to people who want to hold to that truth. It is one thing to say, for example, we don't have laws against adultery in this country, but I still want to say adultery is wrong — it is immoral. I want to be able to uphold that teaching without the law saying to me — no, it is not illegal, so you can't say that," Davies wrote.
"At the moment that's not the case, but the way in which we have seen in other Western Democracies, the coercive effect of changing the definition of marriage has been to restrict people's ability to hold a different point of view," he added.
"And one of the outstanding points of democracy and human dignity — is the freedom of speech, the freedom of faith and the freedom of conscience."