Proposal by Beechworth nursery operators to put stickers in shopfronts to promote gay-friendly businesses raises questions

PLANT nursery operators Gavin Doherty and Tina Fraser want to form a rainbow connection at Beechworth but their efforts have not won over the town’s chamber of commerce chief.

The couple are keen to have stickers spruiking diversity bounded by a band of colour displayed in the shop windows of the heritage town.

Their idea follows a march in December through the streets of Beechworth promoting the tourist mecca’s willingness to welcome those with a diverse background.

That procession was prompted by a backlash against a gay business owner, who has since left the town.

Mr Doherty and Ms Fraser believe it would be worthwhile having stickers to allow businesses to underline their openness towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people who live in the region or are visiting.

But Beechworth Chamber of Commerce president Elizabeth Mason, who operates her own shop The Finer Things in Life, is not keen on the proposal.

“The problem is what it does is some businesses choose not to and it creates diversion, the issue you’re trying to avoid,” she told The Border Mail.

“We have been explicit in our views we welcome every person to Beechworth, regardless of their way of life and choices.”

That is a reasonable point and as Ms Mason notes Beechworth has shown its tolerance with the diversity march attracting 700 participants.

Ultimately, if the stickers suggestion proceeds it should be a matter for individual businesses.

It should not be implied a retailer does not want homosexual customers simply because they don’t have a sign on their shopfront.

After all, it should be apparent by the tone and manner of a shopkeeper whether they are open to customers, no matter their gender or sexual status.

LGBTIQ+ consumers would sense a friendly, ambivalent or negative vibe from a retailer just as easily as any other customer. 

The flipside is that there is value in the so-called pink dollar and no doubt some businesses would benefit by being overt in their encouragement of diverse consumers.

It’s akin to enterprises promoting themselves as wheelchair-friendly, restaurants stressing they welcome children and businesses promoting environmental credentials.