South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race, criticized the Hallmark Channel for caving to pressure from a conservative group and pulling ads that featured a same-sex couple sharing a kiss at their wedding.
“Families are built on love―no matter what they look like,” tweeted Buttigieg, who is openly gay and has been married to husband Chasten since June 2018.
“Being ‘family friendly’ means honoring love, not censoring difference,” the mayor continued. “This truth will be more important than ever as we rebuild our nation into a place defined by belonging, not by exclusion.”
Hallmark reversed course late Sunday, apologizing to the LGBTQ community for the “hurt and disappointment” it caused.
“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,” Mike Perry, the CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc., said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”
The company said it planned to reach out to Zola to reinstate the commercials and that it would work with advocacy groups “to better represent the LGBTQ community.”
Hallmark sparked outrage from members of the LGBTQ community and their allies after it refused to air a series of ads for Zola, an online wedding registry and retailer, that showed a lesbian couple kissing.
The network’s decision came after One Million Moms, a subgroup of the right-wing American Family Association, created a petition urging Hallmark to not air ads featuring same-sex couples. More than 27,000 people had signed the petition as of Sunday afternoon.
“Until recently, Hallmark had a good record for keeping their movies and commercials family friendly,” the petition originally stated. “Family entertainment is not the outlet in which to be politically correct by forcing tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality.”
A representative for Hallmark told The New York Times that the women kissing violated the network’s rule against “public displays of affection,” but declined to comment on why a nearly identical ad featuring a man and woman kissing was not rejected.
Zola, which was informed of the decision on Thursday, was told that Hallmark was “not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial.” Zola had previously run ads featuring same-sex couples with no problem, according to its chief marketing officer, Michael Chi.
“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 Times. “Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed.”
One Million Moms recently updated their petition with a statement that Bill Abbott, the CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, which owns the Hallmark Channel, personally spoke to the group and said the ads in question aired in “error.”
“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,” the group wrote in their statement. “Praise the Lord!”
Twitter users tore into Hallmark over its decision to pull the ads, with many calling the company “homophobic” and calling for viewers to boycott the channel.
“Can’t get over [Hallmark Channel] pulling ads of two brides kissing,” tweeted Abby Huntsman, a co-host on ABC’s “The View.” “We should celebrate living in a country where you can marry who you love, not be ashamed of it. Unbelievable this is still happening in 2019.”
Though Hallmark said it would air two of the six ads pitched by Zola ― neither of which feature the lesbian couple kissing ― the e-commerce company has decided to stop advertising with the network.
“All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love,” Zola tweeted Sunday.
This story has been updated to include Hallmark’s statement that it would reverse its decision to ban the ads.