CANBERRA’S Park Hyatt Hotel has entered into a constructive and supportive working relationship with lobby group Australian Marriage Equality (AME) in an effort to demonstrate the values the company shares with LGBTI rights.

In an announcement earlier this afternoon made by Hyatt Canberra general manager Mikael Svensson and AME acting director Ivan Hinton, both men (pictured above) welcomed the beginning of the hotel chain’s engagement with the LGBTI community.

The Canberra Park Hyatt has been at the forefront of criticism and social media campaigns against the venue due to their decision to continue hosting the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) National Conference, which starts tomorrow.

Although allowing the conference to go ahead despite ACL’s stance on issues of LGBTI rights — specifically marriage equality — the company has reached out to AME in an effort to demonstrate its support of equality and inclusion.

“It’s the beginning of a dialogue with the LGBTI community in Australia and AME,”a Hyatt spokesperson told the Star Observer.

“In the US, we cooperate with a lot of different organisations and are a staunch supporter of marriage equality.

“It’s the position of the company globally and reaching out with AME has put us in a position where we can think about a bigger relationship with the LGBTI community in Australia.”

The hotel chain is hoping to build upon the attention directed towards it this week as an opportunity to start something “sustainable” with the community in Australia.

“We don’t want to be reactionary to what’s happened this week and we are after a more long term approach and engagement with the LGBTI community,” the spokesperson said.

In the US, Hyatt has had an internal support program for its LGBTI employees – HyPride – and has been continually ranked as one of the best LGBTI-friendly workplaces in the country.

Hyatt’s new relationship with AME has been seen as a means to help achieve something similar in Australia.

“This is absolutely a stepping stone to establishing a chapter of HyPride in Australia. It’s a process that has quite a lot of steps to it but this is a great way to start it here,” the spokesperson said.

HyPride Australia hopes to be launched in time for the festival season around the country, especially the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

In addition, while not officially condoning it, the hotel has made no moves to stop a group of LGBTI people and allies from Canberra to “gaycrash” the ACL dinner that’s being held at the Hyatt tonight.

Reflecting on the social media campaign directed towards the Hyatt this week, Hinton said that the passion behind it was understandable.

“I think the strength of responses to the ACL is a reflection of the injury that the LGBTI community carries with them, that has been caused by certain religious voices over time,” the AME acting director told the Star Observer.

“We are familiar with prejudice, we are familiar with discrimination. There is a degree of anxiety that we carry.

“It was not long ago where just being gay was against the law and we carry that burden with us. When we seem to be coming so far in terms of rights it’s understandable that there’s frustration when we see the ACL appears at such a prestigious location like the Hyatt.”

Hinton added that it was the campaign on Facebook that resulted in a relationship being achieved between AME and Hyatt.

“It’s given them a chance to express their very firm historical values of support for LGBTI rights and marriage equality,” he said.

“It’s important to note that the Hyatt actually contacted me and AME first and said that this is a situation where we need your help.”

Another major sticking point for the community with regards to the ACL conference has been the confirmed attendance of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who will use his key note address to affirm his support for marriage equality.

“For Bill Shorten to address the ACL at their National Conference as the key note speaker and as a strong supporter of marriage equality is history in the making. I’m actually looking forward to hearing what he has to say,” Hinton said.

“He will have the opportunity to show support for a new approach, a Christian approach, to the issue. It’s an issue that we know 72 per cent of Australians support but we also know that overwhelming majority of Catholics support marriage equality.”

(Image credit: David Alexander; Star Observer)

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