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Gay marriage billboard complaint rejected

Thursday 10 Jan 2013 9:33 a.m.

The pope as seen in the advertisement

The pope as seen in the advertisement

A complaint over a billboard depicting the pope blessing a gay marriage has been thrown out.

The advertisement, for electricity retailer Powershop, is accompanied by the slogan, "Same power, different attitude."

Complainant B Pender said the billboard was "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 Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said despite multiple complaints about the billboard along the same lines, there was no grounds to proceed.

In its ruling, it noted a previous case where a complaint had been laid against a range of t-shirts featuring "caricatures of popular images, icons or well known figureheads – such as religious leaders – when providing commentary on issues faced by contemporary society", including one that referred to the "Pedo Pope".

"Those images were often presented with a combination of humour, criticism and irony, to make statements about societal issues and/or provoke discussion about contentious issues," the ASA said in a statement.

Posters advertising the t-shirts were said to be "clearly satirising and lampooning only organised religions and their leaders, and are not attacking any group of people".

The same ruling applied to the Powershop billboards said the ASA, which was an example of "the advertiser’s strategy of using irony and humour and in keeping with the advertiser's campaign slogan of 'same power, different attitude'".

There was therefore, according to the ASA, no grounds to proceed.

"It was also never our intention to offend anyone, and we know that marriage equality is frequently debated within the church as well as outside," Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent told website GayNZ.com.

 "The choice of the pope as the main character is primarily because he is highly recognisable, particularly in New Zealand."

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