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'The right thing to do': Telstra backs marriage equality after public flip-flop

The telco's CEO says that rather than backing away from the debate, Telstra must "step forward and support our view for marriage equality and so that is what we will do."


Telstra has been forced to defend its position on marriage equality for the third time in less than a week after it drew accusations of backflipping on its stance.

While Telstra says its position on same-sex marriage has not changed, it has been a week of back and forth on the issue, after reports surfaced that the Catholic Church had lobbied the telco to pull public support for marriage equality.

The Church denied it had threatened a boycott and Telstra said it was not being forced to change tack on the matter, but the telco last week said it had "no further plans to be active in the [same-sex marriage] debate."

But despite committing to stay silent in the debate in order to respect the "personal views" of "employees, customers and shareholders," as well as the Parliamentary process, Telstra has now had another about-face.

In a statement released today, company CEO Andy Penn said the company would be more vocal in its support of marriage equality.

"It is clear that rather than Telstra stepping back we should in fact step forward and support our view for marriage equality and so that is what we will do," Penn wrote.

"By renewing our active position, we acknowledge that we are at equal risk of inflaming a new debate but it is the right thing to do. It also remains very important that we continue to recognise and respect the right of the individual to hold their own view on this issue."

Telstra's earlier position drew swift censure from customers, the media and civil liberties groups, and struck a different tone to its previous public support and sponsorship of LGBTI events and issues.

The move led the director of Australia's only LGBTI-focused advertising agency to warn that Telstra must not dip in and out of the debate, lest it lose respect from customers and the public.

"The LGBTI community has a very strong bullshit detector," said Pink Media Group director Ben Mulcahy. "So it's very obvious when a brand comes in and isn't genuine...It doesn't work."