The Catholic Church in Australia is pushing back against companies that supported marriage equality in recent newspaper advertisements.
The Archdiocese of Sydney sent a letter expressing "grave concerns" about the companies' public statements urging Australia's legislature to legalize same-sex marriage.
"It is... with grave concern that I write to you about the Marriage Equality for Australians campaign," the Archdiocese's business manager, Michael Diggs, wrote.
"You are publically supporting a strategic, political and well-funded campaign designed to pressure the Federal Government into changing the Marriage Act. For corporations to speak on such issues... is indeed overstepping their purpose and it is to be strongly resisted."
The letter also not so-subtly implies a threat to the companies by reminding them of the church's purchasing power. "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," the letter said. Diggs also reminded the recipients many of their "employees, customers, partners, suppliers" are Roman Catholic.
Over 150 companies have united to convince the Australian government to change the marriage laws. International giants like Dow Chemical Company, Google, and Ben & Jerry's joined Australian firms like the Football Federation of Australia and Commonwealth Bank to publish the full page advertisements.
Maurice Blackburn law firm is one of the firms that supported the ads and received a letter from Diggs as a result. Liberty Sanger, a principal at the firm, told the Australian Broadcasting Company that they will not back off of their support and refuse to be intimidated into silence.
"Now it may well be that their intention was to try and frighten us into not participating in the debate," she said. "If that was the objective, well it's had... obviously had the opposite effect.
"I think the important thing is that we continue to show our support so that others who have the same view as us have the courage to speak up and encourage parliamentarians to make the right decision in the Parliament," Sanger continued.
"I thought it was a very heavy-handed response and uncalled for, because we're very respectful of everybody's points of view in this debate. If it was his intention to make us think that he was going to be able to keep Catholics away from Maurice Blackburn because of our support for marriage equality, then I think he will be sadly mistaken. Whether or not it was intended as a threat, I'll leave for him to comment upon."
Advocates of marriage equality have strengthened their efforts to pass the legislation since Ireland's landmark action in a general election earlier this year. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has resisted calls to allow a vote on the topic, but Parliament members will likely face a conscience vote later this year where members can vote outside of the official party positions.
72 percent of Australians support marriage equality according to one recent poll.