After facing massive backlash on social media, the Hallmark Channel has reversed course, and will allow LGBT-themed ads to air on its platform despite resistance from conservative and family groups.
On Sunday, Mike Perry, the CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc., apologized for having caused “hurt and disappointment” for pulling the Zola ad featuring a lesbian wedding kiss, and promising to build a more inclusive atmosphere in the company’s programming.
“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” Perry said, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter (THR). “Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused. … Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences.”
On the company website, Hallmark also promised to work alongside the activist organization Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to create more inclusive programming while touting its record on LGBT issues:
Hallmark is, and always has been, committed to diversity and inclusion – both in our workplace as well as the products and experiences we create. It is never Hallmark’s intention to be divisive or generate controversy. We are an inclusive company and have a track record to prove it. We have LGBTQ greeting cards and feature LGBTQ couples in commercials. We have been recognized as one of the Human Rights Campaigns Best Places to Work, and as one of Forbes America’s Best Employers for Diversity. We have been a progressive pioneer on television for decades – telling wide ranging stories that elevate the human spirit such as August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and Colm Tóibín’s The Blackwater Lightship, both of which highlight the importance of tolerance and understanding.
Hallmark will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials.
The hashtag #BoycottHallmarkChannel began trending on Saturday after the New York Times reported the channel pulled four ads from the wedding planning and registry website Zola for offending viewers with content they “deemed controversial.” The descision came in response to a petition launched by the activist family group One Million Moms that denounced the ad as inappropriate for a “family-friendly” channel.
“Until recently, Hallmark had a good record for keeping their movies and commercials family-friendly,” the petition said. “Now, parents can no longer trust Hallmark because Hallmark is no longer allowing parents to be the primary educators when it comes to sex and sexual morality. Parents need to know they could now come face-to-face with the LGBT agenda when they sit down to watch the Hallmark Channel.”
One Million Moms quoted several viewers who expressed discontent over the Zola commercial and claimed they were caught off-guard in front of their children.
“Our family was watching a wonderful Hallmark movie based on a true story. It was late, but our daughter was up late with us,” one viewer said. “During the commercial break, there was a commercial from Zola with two women lip locking! Please, Hallmark … You are one of the few channels we thought we would not have to deal with this issue! … We love you but won’t keep watching with this type of ads.”