Telecommunications giant Telstra is smack-dab in the middle of a major furore today, after reports emerged that the company has bowed to pressure from the Catholic Church and quietly removed its public support for marriage equality.

The Australian published an investigation earlier today that stated Telstra had low-key attempted to distance itself from its previously very staunch and public backing of same sex marriage in Australia, after high ranking officials of the church wrote to a number of businesses and threatened a boycott.

In May of last year, Australian Marriage Equality ran a full-page newspaper ad nationwide that included a number of different corporate logos, all of whom were banding together to take a public stand in the push for marriage equality. The ad, published in The Australian, featured Telstra’s logo prominently and looked like this:

Telstra Pulls Same-Sex Marriage Campaign Amid Threats Of Catholic Boycott

The ad was followed a couple of months later by a second one, featuring a boatload more companies throwing their support behind the cause. Again, Telstra was among them.

However, The Australian reports that the Catholic Church subsequently used the ads as a hitlist of sorts, with the Archdiocese of Sydney writing letters to the businesses featured in the ad; letters that essentially amounted to a threat. Either pull your support for the amending of the Marriage Act, or face the loss of business from the Catholic Church.

Archdiocese business manager Michael Diggs wrote to corporations featured in the ad, and implied the church would withdraw their business.

“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. 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.”

“For corporations to speak on such issues on behalf of shareholders, employees, clients/customers, suppliers and other stakeholders is indeed overstepping their purpose and is to be strongly resisted.”

It’s understood that Telstra holds the contracts for most of, if not all, Catholic schools across Australia, and Diggs’ thinly veiled threat represents a very large potential loss of business for the telecom giant.

With that said, it would appear that Telstra has caved in to the threat in full.

Outwardly the company is stating that its position on the issue remains the same. But internal communications sent to Telstra employees paints a slightly different picture.

In an internal communication, Telstra moved to assure employees that the status quo has not changed. However, the reality is as plain as day.

“You may have seen that today in The Australian there was an article suggesting that we have withdrawn our support for same-sex marriage.

Our position hasn’t changed. We place 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.

Ultimately, Parliament will determine any changes to the institution of marriage. In view of this we have no plans to figure prominently in the wider public debate.”

That last sentence. Yikes. If that’s not poorly disguised corporate doublespeak for “we’re shit scared of losing the money” then we do not know what is.

It’s also interesting to note that the language in Telstra’s communication to its employees is practically word-for-word identical to the statement issued to the wider media.

It’s how we connect!” indeed.

Source: The Australian.

Photo: James Alcock/Getty.