Catholic Church told heads of SBS and Telstra to drop support for marriage equality

The Catholic Church contacted the office of SBS managing director Michael Ebeid and urged him to abandon his public support for same-sex marriage in a letter received last year, SBS can confirm.

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The church also contacted Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, according to Fairfax Media.

Both men are among Australia’s most prominent gay chief executives.

SBS and Qantas pledged their support for the Australian Marriage Equality (AME) campaign last year, along with hundreds of other Australian corporations.

Shortly after the launch of the campaign the Catholic Church began writing letters to many of the organisations involved, according to Fairfax, including Qantas, SBS, Telstra, the Football Federation of Australia and the law firm Maurice Blackburn.

“I wonder whether you have questioned whether it is the role of a corporation such as yours to be participating in such an important matter that impacts all of Australian society now and into the future,” wrote Sydney archdiocese business manager Michael Digges, according to Fairfax.

The revelations come just days after a report in The Australian that claimed Telstra was backing down from the AME campaign following pressure from the church sparked public backlash against the telco.

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LGBTI business organisations have threatened to boycott Telstra and expressed concerns over the wellbeing of gay 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 the company.

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,” Mr 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.”

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Telstra remains on the list of corporations that support same-sex marriage on the AME website alongside rivals Optus and Vodaphone.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn responded to the criticism, saying the company had withdrawn from the public debate but had not abandoned its support for the cause.

“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,” Mr 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.”

SBS remains on the AME website as a supporter.