LGBTI business organisations in three states have condemned Telstra for its decision to step back from a corporate push for same-sex marriage in Australia and raised concerns about the well-being of LGBTI Telstra staff.
Melbourne's Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Business and Enterprise (GLOBE), the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA) and the Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network (GLBN), which represent LGBTI small and medium business owners and professionals working in some of Australia’s biggest companies, released a statement Thursday slamming news that Telstra had bowed to pressure from the Catholic Church on the issue.
GLOBE president David Micallef pledged to cancel the group's Telstra phone services and no longer accept financial support from the organisation.
“I have been concerned by the hate-filled discussion that this news from Telstra has generated and the negative impact it has already had on LGBTI people in the community," Micallef said.
"GLOBE will not accept any sponsorship or financial support from Telstra, and have already taken steps to cancel the organisation’s phone account.
“Supporting the LGBTI community is more than marching in Mardi Gras or having a stall at Midsumma and then jumping ship when things get hard – it shows an utter disrespect for the community and what it stands for."
"[We] will not accept any sponsorship or financial support from Telstra, and have already taken steps to cancel the organisation’s phone account."
The president of the SGLBA, which counts federal Member for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman as its former vice president, said that bowing to "commercial threats" from the Catholic Church is an affront to Telstra's values and community standards.
"Telstra needs to get the courage of its convictions. It does its many LGBTI and ally employees a disservice if it won't stand up and be counted in the public arena where it makes all the difference," Mark Haines
GLBN president Brendan Heck said he was also worried about the impact of the decision on Telstra staff.
“I’m also concerned about the message this sends to its employees and the view of their basic human rights. Has Telstra thought about the consequences this may have on its staff and how they will now feel about going to work?” Heck said.
GLBN, GLOBE and the SGLBA claim to all have Telstra employees who are active members of their networks.
The telco has faced ongoing consumer backlash since The Australian newspaper reported Wednesday that it had pulled out of the public campaign. Telstra CEO Andrew Penn yesterday sought to address the poor reception to its decision by saying the company needed to recognise "many and varied views".
"I want to be clear about Telstra’s perspective as our long track record in diversity and inclusion was generally overlooked," Penn said.
"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."
Penn said that while Telstra continues to support marriage equality and has not changed that position, he confirmed it would not 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," Penn said.
"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."