Ina Fried

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Reversing Course, GLAAD Now Neutral on AT&T-T-Mobile Deal

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which had come out in support of AT&T’s deal to buy T-Mobile, said on Wednesday that it is now neutral on the deal following a huge outcry over its initial position.

Negative reaction to its initial pro-merger stance, and the process that led to the position, forced a shakeup of the organization’s board and leadership. President Jarrett Barrios resigned after the backlash over the group’s stance, a move that was followed by the resignations of several other board members.

On Wednesday, GLAAD said it is sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission informing them of the new position and reiterating the organization’s support for Net Neutrality.

“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,” acting president Mike Thompson said in a statement.

Critics had charged that the group had little reason to support the deal, other than the fact that AT&T was a large donor to the organization. AT&T’s bid has drawn backing from a range of nonprofits, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Education Association, as well as statements of support from several tech companies and venture capital firms. The NAACP also faced allegations that it was AT&T’s status as a donor as opposed to organizational principles that prompted the statement of support, a charge the organization has denied.

GLAAD had also written the FCC a letter, later withdrawn, adopting AT&T’s position of encouraging close scrutiny of proposed Net Neutrality rules. On Wednesday, the organization said it was re-affirming its support of the principles of Net Neutrality, though not taking a stand on any particular proposal or regulation.

“A nondiscriminatory and neutral Internet has allowed new digital media initiatives and the blogosphere itself to flourish online,” the organization stated. “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.”

For its part, AT&T said it respected the right of GLAAD and other organizations — even those it backs financially — to make their own decisions whether or not to support the deal.

“As we’ve previously said, we recognize, and fully respect that these organizations, which do important work, will make up their own minds about whether to support the merger or remain neutral,” an AT&T representative said in a statement. “And, though it should go without saying, the decisions made by these organizations will not in any way impact our desire to work with, partner with, or support those organizations in the future.”

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