Why a Gay Rights Group Is Endorsing AT&T's Mega Merger

The president of GLAAD urges the FCC to approve the T-Mobile acquisition. But why?

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In a strange alliance, one of the country's largest gay and lesbian groups has endorsed the looming merger between telco giants AT&T and T-Mobile. To little fanfare on Tuesday, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) sent a letter to Federal Communication Commission chairman Julius Genachowski lobbying for approval of the controversial acquisition. "We write to you as leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities who have come together to urge support for the AT&T-T-Mobile merger," wrote GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios. The letter reads like a press release from AT&T, predicting that the merger will create "more access, faster service, and competitive pricing" despite concerns from some lawmakers and advocacy groups that it will reduce consumer choice and drive up prices. But regardless of the varying views on the merger, it's just odd that GLAAD would weigh in on an issue so detached from the LGBT cause.

And that's precisely what John Aravosis at Americablog thought until he did a little digging. He notes that AT&T underwrites the annual GLAAD awards, has made significant grants to GLAAD, and even has a member on GLAAD's board. "How else to explain why our community is using up its limited political capital to weigh in on an issue that has nothing to do with the gay or trans communities?" he writes.  Aravosis is also troubled by the fact that AT&T's record on LGBT support is less than shimmering. "AT&T was one of the companies whose local representatives sits on the board of directors of the Tennessee chamber of commerce," he writes. "You remember them, the group that endorsed and actively lobbied for the measure repealing gay and trans rights ordinances in the state, mandating it so that no trans person can ever change their birth certificate gender in the future, and banning any future civil rights ordinances for anyone in the future.  That AT&T. " Another news development that bears mentioning, though this one is a plus for AT&T's relationship with the gay community, is AT&T's decision to pull advertising from the talk show Jose Luis Sin Censura, a Spanish-language show broadcast in the U.S. that GLAAD had launched a "months-long" campaign against. GLAAD announced AT&T's decision yesterday.  "It is our hope that other advertisers and fair-minded broadcasters who are worried about these depictions will not support or air this show," wrote GLAAD.

Earlier today, Daniel Villarreal at the gay news site Queerty noted that GLAAD's position on Net Neutrality is at odds with AT&T's. "GLAAD says it doesn’t share AT&T’s stance on Net Neutrality which is a bit like Target saying it doesn’t share a Minnesota Republican’s anti-gay views while still supporting his pro-business campaign." Twisting the knife further, Villarreal, argues that the group's preoccupation with tangential issues has hindered it's ability to actually serve the gay community:

GLAAD spends its time castigating adult cartoon shows that say the word “faggot”, rewarding commercials that mock femmes and newspapers that break GLAAD’s style guide, and ignoring one of the most controversial pro-gay documentaries of our time. They can’t even get the WWE to stop saying “faggot” for one week.

We’d rather they go back to being worse than useless rather than spend their time publicly supporting bad mergers. Or they could, y’know actually help create positive portrayals of LGBT on television, something that badly needs help.

Sounds like GLAAD's got a problem on its hands.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.