Guest Blogger

Why Is GLAAD Endorsing the AT&T/T-Mobile Merger?

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 03, 2011 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: AT&T, GLAAD, T-Mobile

johnphoto300antedit.jpgEditors' Note: Guest blogger John Aravosis is the founder and editor of He and Joe Sudbay ran the campaign against AT&T and others for their support of Tennessee's new anti-gay, anti-trans law.

1. What is a gay rights organization doing weighing in on a phone company merger?  I have an AT&T iPhone and the coverage sucks and is getting worse, so hey, I'm all for AT&T improving the quality of their service.  But my sexual orientation has exactly zero to do with my phone service.  Well, that's not entirely true...

2. AT&T was one of the companies whose local representatives sits on the board of directors of the Tennessee chamber of commerce.  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.  The AT&T that weighed in early with a statement, when we asked the 13 companies to disavow the legislation and call on the governor to veto, but then whose statement pretty much didn't say anything.  The AT&T then that emailed me multiple additional statements after the governor signed the hateful bill into law.

So why exactly is GLAAD, now, one week after we get screwed in Tennessee, in part by AT&T's own employee who was warned about this bill a good month ago and did nothing, writing public letters to the Obama administration on behalf of AT&T, on an issue that has nothing to do with gay or trans rights, for a company that outright refused to sign a joint letter to the governor of Tennessee calling for a veto of some of the most hateful anti-gay and anti-trans legislation of our time?

There's a lot of talk already that this is happening because AT&T underwrites the GLAAD awards, because the company has made monetary grants to GLAAD, and has a member on GLAAD's board. It certainly looks that way. 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, on behalf of a company that just recently did a lot of harm to both communities.

If AT&T wants our help, they should have thought about that when they outright refused to sign a simple letter to the governor of Tennessee one week ago, helping to guarantee that gay and trans civil rights were repealed in that state just days ago.

PS Do read GLAAD's letter trying to explain how cell phones are now gay (or maybe they're just questioning).  The purported linkage between expanding 4g coverage and gay rights is one of the most contorted, and bizarre, things I've ever read.  It looks like AT&T bought GLAAD off.  It's hard to reach any other conclusion.

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I haven't read GLAAD's letter, nor do I see any need to.

Groups, and people, HAVE to look at the bigger picture of what's in the best interests of the community as a whole, and it makes no sense to be bought off by what is, for a giant company, a trivial amount of money when that giant company is actively working to damage the entirety of our lives. (When Target stops supporting people who want me dead, then maybe I'll go back.)

Contrary to what GLBT people who vote Republican seem to think, even apart from the damage to the country as a whole, what is the good of having your taxes lowered if the sociopaths you're voting for don't want you to have a family or a job?

Like Mr. Aravosis, I have no idea why GLAAD would send the government a letter supporting a corporate action whose primary purpose is the greed of corporate executives and that is irrelevant to our interests. I hope that GLAAD will undo the damage that it has done by writing and publishing a retraction of its endorsement and pointing out why ATT is NOT a good corporate citizen.

"... because AT&T underwrites the GLAAD awards, ..."

As I have said before, GLAAD loves to throw all those glitsy-glam parties, which have to take some serious bucks, and they apparently have hypnotized themselves into thinking glitsy-glam parties are their primary raison d'etre ...

... and defending the LGBT community in the media is what they do with what's left ... if it happens to be convenient.

This whole thing just gets odder and odder. It's a HUGE mistake on GLAAD's part.

Rich Ferraro | June 4, 2011 2:14 PM

We clarified some of these positions in a statement yesterday-


June 3, 2011, New York, NY - This morning reports ran regarding GLAAD’s position on a merger between AT&T and T-Mobile and put forth false accusations that GLAAD is unable to effectively work with media entities that we also receive corporate sponsorships from. We take these characterizations of our work extremely seriously.

It was also wrongly reported that GLAAD endorses AT&T's position on net neutrality. GLAAD does not endorse AT&T’s position. GLAAD believes that equal, fair and universal access to the internet is vital to our community and to our national dialogue. While GLAAD does not take a position on particular legislation or regulations, we continue to believe in the importance of adhering to these values.

Groups as diverse as the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, LULAC, the National Council for Negro Women and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce have spoken out in support of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. GLAAD signed on to this letter with the understanding that this merger will increase functionality and speed, thus growing engagement and improving the effectiveness of the online advocacy work that is advancing our movement. GLAAD also stands behind the AFL-CIO and Pride at Work in believing that this merger will increase access to domestic partner benefits, family/medical/bereavement leave, and survivorship benefits for thousands of LGBT employees.

Pride at Work released a statement today:

The proposed AT&T / T-Mobile merger has significant impact for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. AT&T is a union business with a good record on LGBT issues. In contrast, call center workers at T-Mobile have been fighting to form a union, but T-Mobile has been aggressively trying to stop them.

In a majority of states, workers can be legally fired or discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Because of the lack of federal employment protections and the lack of relationship recognition, a union is often the only protection for LGBT workers - and the most powerful way to have a voice on the job. As the only union cell phone company, AT&T has a policy of neutrality & majority sign-up recognition – allowing workers to freely make their own decisions about forming a union.

"The fact is that T-Mobile was put up for sale by its German parent company," said Shane Larson, Legislative Director for the Communications Workers of America and Pride at Work National Executive Board member.

"Only two companies were interested in buying T-Mobile: pro-union, pro-equality AT&T, and union-busting, jobs-outsourcing Sprint. For T-Mobile employees, the future is much brighter at a pro-union company like AT&T that enshrines LGBT equality in a legally enforceable union contract," Larson concluded.

For thousands of T-Mobile workers - and the LGBT employees in particular -- this merger will make the difference in whether or not they have the opportunity to negotiate for fair and equal working conditions. It will make the difference in the ability to negotiate for job security, domestic partner benefits, family, medical and bereavement leave and other workplace issues vital to LGBT and all workers.

The narrative that GLAAD does not demand action from corporate sponsors is entirely false. Many watchdog non-profits are in part funded by entities they monitor. It is a policy that is outlined on our site:

There are many examples from the past year of such work, including as recent as yesterday:

•AT&T and Time Warner Cable pulled advertising after GLAAD and the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) asked advertisers to drop advertisements from Jose Luis Sin Censura, a Spanish-language talk show where the audience frequently chants the word f*ggot and violently assaults LGBT guests. This campaign is continuing.
•After NBC received a ‘failing’ grade on GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index, which measures the quantity and quality of LGBT characters, GLAAD wrote a highly critical letter about NBC's merger with Comcast to the FCC.
•GLAAD placed a public call to action against CNN for repeatedly featuring anti-gay voices on the channel in the name of ‘balance’: Last year, CNN’s Kyra Phillips debunked a myth about so-called ex-gay therapy put forth by a guest after GLAAD and community members demanded action.
•Last fall, GLAAD spoke out publically against an episode of MTV’s Jersey Shore that we described as “the most blatantly transphobic scenes aired anywhere on television”: MTV apologized and met with GLAAD to improve coverage of transgender people and edited the episode to remove the offensive material.
All of these media companies are sponsors of GLAAD.

While these stories may grab headlines, much of GLAAD’s core work is on-the-ground trainings with local couples and allies to speak out in their communities and share their stories with voters in states where our equality is being debated. Couples like Shelly and Kristin of Oregon as well as Carol and Anne from Rhode Island. It’s these images and stories that we need in the minds of Americans if are to gain support for equality, and it’s this work that is more crucial than ever. It is the GLAAD Media Awards and our corporate sponsors that fund these programs.

To learn more about GLAAD's recent work, please visit our blog at


The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality. For more information, please visit For the latest updates on our work, visit and