AUSTRALIA’S leading LGBTI business groups have come together to call on the community to boycott Telstra.

After Telstra caved in to pressure from the Australian Catholic Church to no longer publicly support marriage equality, 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) issued a statement last night urging people to ditch Telstra.

 GLBN, GLOBE and the SGLBA all have Telstra employees who are active members of their networks and the organisations are concerned about the impact that this would have on their staff.

They said Telstra’s removal of support for equal marriage goes against the equality message the company has trumpeted to the LGBTI community, and does a disservice to its LGBTI employees and the community members who have supported the teleco.

“The messages to big business should be clear. If you do not support our community, then we do not support you,” GLOBE president David Micallef said.

“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. 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.”

Telstra participates in ACON Pride in Diversity’s (PID) Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) — a benchmarking instrument to measure LGBTI workplace inclusion — and its president, Dawn Hough, said PID does not require members support specific LGBTI causes as a condition of membership.

“However, the AWEI… does include a section which encourages participating organisations to support LGBTI inclusion issues,” she said.

“As a workplace-focussed social inclusion program of ACON, we consider specific issues directly linked to inclusion, such as marriage equality, to be fundamental to improving the health outcomes for all Australians. We are a proud supporter of marriage equality in Australia.”

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome has also voiced his concerns about Telstra’s backing down on marriage equality.

“Marriage equality is good for businesses because it will foster more inclusive workplaces, send a positive message to customers, help recruitment of skilled workers from overseas and boost Australia’s international reputation,” he said.

“This is why 870 Australian businesses have backed the reform (for marriage equality).”

Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn issued a statement yesterday saying while Telstra still supported marriage equality, it would no longer “publicly participate in the debate further”.

“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,” he said.

“This could not be further from the truth.”

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