Business groups representing sexual and gender diverse business owners and employees are calling on small businesses to boycott Telstra in the wake of revelations the telco quietly retreated from a public push for marriage equality after the Catholic Church voiced its displeasure.
The Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Business and Enterprise in Melbourne, which has 300 paid members, is today teaming up with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association and the Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network to call on SMEs to voice their displeasure with Telstra and take their money elsewhere.
Earlier this week The Australian revealed how Telstra has decided to stop agitating for same-sex marriage after the Catholic Church threatened to withdraw its commercial partnerships.
Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn yesterday confirmed his company will no longer be publicly pushing for marriage equality.
“We recognise there are many varied views and if we are all truly accepting of diversity, there should be room made for all of them,” Penn said in a statement.
“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 David Micallef, president of the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Business and Enterprise, told SmartCompany a company withdrawing from public debate while still saying it supports marriage equality is simply lip service and not good enough.
“It shows a lack of leadership,” Micallef says.
“It’s a bit rich. If you’re a supporter of the cause, you should be a supporter of it 100% and not waning when one of your customers starts complaining.”
Micallef says it’s “disingenuous” when companies such as Telstra attend events like Mardi Gras and Midsummer to promote themselves, but back away when the going gets tough.
He says if Telstra is serious about supporting marriage equality, it should have done what what Starbucks did in the United States when some shareholders kicked up a fuss over the coffee chain’s marriage equality stance – that is, stand firm and tell them to take their money elsewhere.
“Small businesses should be really thinking about the types of businesses they do business with, and the values they model themselves on,” Micallef says.
Should marriage equality be legalised, small businesses are expected to reap the financial benefits.
SMEs in the wedding industry expect marriage equality to bring in billions of dollars in the long term, fuelling sales and job creation.