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Telstra bows to pressure to back away from same-sex marriage debate: Report

Telstra has reportedly backed away from a campaign for same-sex marriage in Australia, after the Catholic Church wrote a letter threatening to boycott its support for the company, according to reports.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Telco giant Telstra has reportedly been forced by the Catholic Church to scale back its support for campaigning for marriage equality in Australia.

Telstra's decision has come after archdiocese of Sydney business manager Michael Digges wrote a letter to companies that backed a full-page Australian Marriage Equality advertisement in May 2015 threatening to boycott their support, according to The Australian.

"You may be aware that the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney is a significant user of goods and services from many corpor­ations, both local and inter­national," Digges wrote in the letter.

"Undoubtedly, many of the Catholic population of Sydney would be your employees, customers, partners and suppliers. It is therefore with grave concern that I write to you about the Marriage Equality for Australians campaign."

A person familiar with the company's decision to back away from publicly supporting same-sex marriage told The Australian the telco "did not want to risk its commercial relationship with the church".

In a statement released by Telstra, the company said its position on same-sex marriage has not changed, but has no further plans to be active in the debate.

"We place great importance on diversity and standing against all forms of discrimination. We also recognise this diversity means our employees, customers and shareholders will have a range of personal views on this topic," the Telstra spokesperson said.

"What has changed is that the government has indicated it will call a plebiscite on the issue and, ultimately, Parliament will decide the matter."

More than 860 companies including the big four banks, Qantas, and Coca-Cola Amatil joined Telstra in backing Australian Marriage Equality's campaign.

Australian Marriage Equality director Rodney Croome said Telstra had not told the organisation of any change in position on same-sex marriage.

The number of companies that backed the campaign for same-sex marriage had doubled in less than a year, he said.

"The Catholic church has every right to express its views but corporate Australia isn't listening," Croome told AAP.

The Archdiocese of Sydney confirmed Digges wrote in June to several companies that backed the Australian Marriage Equality campaign, and had business dealings with the Catholic Church.

But Digges had never threatened to boycott companies that supported the campaign, the statement said.

"Digges pointed out that support of same-sex marriage is incompatible with the business practices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney," it said.

"In turn he also said in agreeing to do business with the archdiocese, our business partners and suppliers agree to be comfortable with the association of their name and brand with the archdiocese."

Digges said he had serious concerns about businesses promoting and identifying themselves with social-issue campaigns on behalf of staff, shareholders, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

The news has sparked public backlash on social media, with Telstra accused of being "weak" and "gutless".

With AAP

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