The Hallmark Channel came under fire this weekend after it decided to pull gay wedding-themed commercials from the airwaves. One of the Zola commercials in question featured two women getting married after discussing the perks of using the wedding planning site, and it was removed from the network after a conservative group complained that it called into question Hallmark’s status as a “family friendly” network.
Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark, told the Associated Press that the decision to remove the ad was based upon the network’s desire to avoid controversy. “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value,” Biwer explained. She also added in an interview, “The Hallmark brand is never going to be divisive. We don’t want to generate controversy, we’ve tried very hard to stay out of it … we just felt it was in the best interest of the brand to pull them and not continue to generate controversy.”
Her comments came after the conservative group One Million Moms complained in a campaign post on the group’s site that the ad was not “family friendly” and detailed viewer comments that were “concerned” by the commercial. “Please reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples, and please do not add LGBT movies to the Hallmark Channel. Such content goes against Christian and conservative values that are important to your primary audience. You will lose viewers if you cave to the LBGT agenda,” they wrote. The same group later issued an update claiming that they’d personally spoken to Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbott about the ad and that he “reported the advertisement aired in error.”
Hallmark’s decision to remove the ad has since sparked an onslaught of criticism on social media. Ellen DeGeneres wrote of the news, “Isn’t it almost 2020? Hallmark Channel … what are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears.” Actress Sandra Bernhard also weighed in, asking, “Why? Did it disturb they’re delicate senses? How pathetic.” Schitt’s Creek co-creator and star Dan Levy wrote that it was a “bad look” for the network, and even Netflix seemingly responded by posting still images of lesbian characters from its originals with the caption, “Titles Featuring Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also It’s Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They Love.”
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 15, 2019
Why? Did it disturb they’re delicate senses? How pathetic https://t.co/QBSFW5m4IH
— Sandra Bernhard (@SandraBernhard) December 14, 2019
— dan levy (@danjlevy) December 15, 2019
Titles Featuring Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also It’s Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They Love
🎥 Let It Snow
📺 Merry Happy Whatever pic.twitter.com/LTwnHogkoJ
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 15, 2019
The social media backlash continued on Sunday as the hashtag #BoycottHallmarkChannel trended in the US.
Mike Chi, chief marketing officer for Zola, declared that the company will not continue to advertise with Hallmark and revealed that it had previously submitted a total of six ads to the Hallmark Channel, four which featured a lesbian couple and were removed. “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,” Chi told the AP. “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.”
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis also responded to the situation in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter which read, “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. 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.”
One of the Zola commercials that was removed by Hallmark can be seen below.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)