Responding to targeted campaigns by anti-LGBTQ Christian groups, Hallmark Channel has yanked TV ads featuring a same-sex wedding, The New York Times reports.
This week Hallmark Channel removed four commercials from wedding registry website Zola that included lesbian brides kissing. As a result, Zola has pulled all of its advertisements from the network.
Asked why the ads had been rejected, a Hallmark Channel spokesperson explained that the women’s “overt public displays of affection” violated the channel’s policies.
Hallmark Channel's parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, confirmed in a statement that it made the decision to pull the ads: “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.”
The six related Zola ads, which feature various combinations of couples, began airing December 2 on Hallmark Channel. Most of the spots feature the same-sex couple and multiple heterosexual couples, but one focuses solely on the lesbian brides. Some of the ads show the couples kissing at the altar or while walking down the aisle.
Zola was notified Thursday that four of its six ads had been rejected as “controversial” and would be pulled. However, in one of two ads that continued to air, a bride and groom kiss at the altar. Zola responded to the discrimination by removing all of its advertisements from the channel.
“The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark’s standards included a lesbian couple kissing,” said Mike Chi, chief marketing officer of Zola. “Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed. All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.”
Hallmark pulled the ads following a public complaint from One Million Moms, a boycott-crazy conservative Christian group affiliated with the American Family Association, one of the nation's leading anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
The complaint was posted online shortly after Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, told The Hollywood Reporter that Hallmark is "open" to producing and airing a holiday film with gay leads.
In a petition signed by more than 25,000 conservative Christians, the group warns parents that they are coming "face-to-face with the LGBT agenda when they sit down to watch the Hallmark Channel"—and that family-friendly TV movies are "not the outlet in which to be politically correct by forcing tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality, a sinful lifestyle that scripture clearly deems as wrong." A group spokesperson adds, "Shame on Hallmark for airing commercials with same-sex couples and even considering movies with LGBT content and lead characters."
Celebrating its victory, the group posted an update on its original petition claiming they had spoken with Abbott, who confirmed the commercials were pulled from the network. "He reported the advertisement aired in error, but he was informed about it after hearing from concerned 1MM supporters," the statement read. "The call to our office gave us the opportunity to also confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family friendly network. Praise the Lord!"
“The Hallmark Channel’s decision to remove LGBTQ families in such a blatant way is discriminatory and especially hypocritical coming from a network that claims to present family programming and also recently stated they are ‘open’ to LGBTQ holiday movies,” says Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a statement. “As so many other TV and cable networks showcase, LGBTQ families are part of family programming. Advertisers on The Hallmark Channel should see this news and question whether they want to be associated with a network that chooses to bow to fringe anti-LGBTQ activist groups, which solely exist to harm LGBTQ families.”
GLAAD also notes that LGBTQ-inclusive advertising "has become increasingly popular from brands across industries, and plays an outsized role in enabling LGBTQ families to see themselves reflected positively in the media."
HRC has launched a petition urging Hallmark Channel to reconsider pulling the Zola ads. The organization has also "reached out to Hallmark leadership to discuss steps to rectify this discriminatory decision."
"By backing down on visibility and representation, Hallmark has failed our community and all of their customers. And for a brand all about love, it is disheartening to see Hallmark leading with fear and discrimination," an HRC representative writes. "By caving into the wants of a hateful group, you have worked to erase LGBTQ people from television screens across the country. The message that sends about LGBTQ families is dangerous and wrong."
One Million Moms has notably called for boycotts of brands like Campbell's Soup, American Girl magazine, and Zales, specifically for supporting same-sex couples. The group has more recently condemned Mattel's gender-neutral Barbie, Mr. Ratburn's gay wedding in the Arthur cartoon, and the "dangerous" lesbian couple with a brief cameo in Toy Story 4.
Evangelical website LifeSiteNews has also launched a petition demanding Hallmark Channel “keep sex and sexual practices—including the promotion of homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.—out of their movies." That petition has garnered more than 40,000 signatures.
Watch another version of the Zola ad featuring straight couples below.