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Telstra experiencing backlash over report it withdrew support for same sex marriage

Telstra is facing a growing social media backlash over a report that claims the brand retreated from its public support for same sex marriage following pressure from the Catholic Church.

A report in The Australian today claims Australia’s largest telco quietly pulled support for marriage equality after it was threatened with a boycott via a the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney business manager, Michael Digges, writing to the company to pressure it on the issue.

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The story has since been picked up by a number of other media outlets and is receiving strong traction on social media, with some customers pledging to switch carriers.

The anger comes from a letter by Digges to the telco questioning Telstra’s decision to feature in two national advertisements for Australian Marriage Equality in May and June last year, and to include its logo ­on the lobby group’s website.

“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.”

Users on social media have fired up online over the issue with tweets and memes, such as:

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A spokesman for Telstra did not directly address the allegations in The Australian, but told Mumbrella: “Telstra has demonstrated it places great importance on diversity and standing against discrimination, in all its forms. Our workforce reflects this diversity, including people of same-sex in a broad range of relationships.

“The Government has committed to putting same-sex marriage before the Australian people in a plebiscite and, ultimately, it will be Parliament who determines any changes to the institution of marriage. In view of this Telstra has no further plans to figure prominently in the wider public debate.”

Nic Christensen 

Update April 14: Telstra has today issued the following statement from Andy Penn, CEO Telstra:

Following yesterday’s marriage equality debate around Telstra, I want to be clear about Telstra’s perspective as our long track record in diversity and inclusion was generally overlooked.

We clearly need to make this simple statement: Telstra supports marriage equality as part of the great importance we place on diversity and standing against all forms of discrimination.

Equally we recognise there are many and varied views and if we are all truly accepting of diversity, there should be room made for all of them.

While Telstra continues to support Australian Marriage Equality and has not changed that position, we have made a decision not to publicly participate in the debate further.  This is because the proposed plebiscite process gives everyone an opportunity to contribute and out of respect, it is important we allow them to voice their own views.

However, this position was interpreted by some as us abandoning our tradition of supporting diversity and inclusion, be it in the community or in our workplace.  This could not be further from the truth

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