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GLAAD Withdraws Support of AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Wednesday July 13, 2011

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation on Wednesday, July 13, asked the Federal Communications Commission to withdraw its support of the pending AT&T/T-Mobile.

Mike Thompson, acting president of GLAAD, stated in the letter that his organization strongly supports net neutrality.

"GLAAD is a strong supporter of the general principle of net neutrality," wrote Thompson. "Although this letter is not specific to any proposed or existing regulatory or legislative standards, we acknowledge that net neutrality is one of the principles most responsible for the Internet's emergence as the dominant platform for free expression. A nondiscriminatory and neutral Internet has allowed new digital media initiatives and the blogosphere itself to flourish online. Net neutrality has cultivated the plethora of online resources available to otherwise isolated LGBT Americans seeking help with coming out, coping with and countering discrimination, suicide and HIV/AIDS prevention resources, community building and political organizing tools, and general self-expression. GLAAD's own work has been effective thanks in large part to net neutrality."

Former GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios resigned last month amid a firestorm of controversy over his endorsement of the proposed merger in a Jan. 2010 letter that was written on GLAAD letterhead that bore his signature. Barrios also appeared to support corporate sponsor AT&T at the expense of net neutrality in several additional letters he sent to the FCC.

Six GLAAD board members-including Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers-abruptly stepped down in the days after Barrios announced his resignation.

"A rigorous review process considered GLAAD's unique mission and concluded that while AT&T has a strong record of support for the LGBT community, the explanation used to support this particular merger was not sufficiently consistent with GLAAD's work to advocate for positive and culture-changing LGBT stories and images in the media," said Thompson.

Editor's note: Michael K. Lavers is a former GLAAD staffer.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.