Hallmark Channel Faces Backlash After Pulling Ads Featuring Lesbian Couple: 'Isn't It Almost 2020?'

The Hallmark Channel is facing a backlash for bowing to pressure from conservative campaign groups and pulling ads that showed a lesbian couple kissing.

Six ads for a campaign by wedding planning website Zola featured different configurations of couples and began airing on the Hallmark Channel on December 2, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Most of the ads included heterosexual couples, as well as a same-sex couple, and one of the ads featured only a lesbian couple getting married, the website reported.

But following a petition by campaign groups including One Million Moms, the Hallmark Channel decided to drop the ads that featured same-sex couples.

The decision sparked outrage on social media, with comedian Ellen DeGeneres writing on Twitter: "Isn't it almost 2020?" DeGeneres, who famously came out as a lesbian in 1997, tagged Bill Abbott, the CEO of the Hallmark Channel's parent company Crown Media Family Networks, adding: "What are you thinking? Please explain. We're all ears."

Isn’t it almost 2020? @hallmarkchannel, @billabbottHC... what are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears.

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 15, 2019

PROUD to have directed this ad with some beautiful people and PROUD to support gay rights. #boycotthallmark https://t.co/lHBjx9Hhtv

— Lauren Sick (@laurensick) December 15, 2019

Lauren Sick, who directed the ads for Zola, also called out Hallmark on social media. "PROUD to have directed this ad with some beautiful people and PROUD to support gay rights," she wrote on Twitter alongside the hashtag #boycotthallmark.

In a statement provided to Newsweek, GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said: "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."

Following the decision, a spokesperson for Zola said the company will no longer run advertisements on the Hallmark Channel.

Mike Chi, Zola's chief marketing officer, said in a statement provided to Newsweek: "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. Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed."

Chi added: "All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark."

The New York Times reported that an employee of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark's parent company, said in an email exchange that ads "deemed controversial" are not accepted by the channel.

A spokesman for Hallmark told the Times that the "public displays of affection" by the women in the ad violated the channel's policies, but did not comment on why the Zola ads featuring a heterosexual couple were not rejected. Newsweek has contacted The Hallmark Channel and Crown Media Family Networks for further comment.

One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association that describes itself as campaign to "stop the exploitation of children" by the media, wrote on its website that Abbott had confirmed to them that the ads had been pulled.

"He reported the advertisement aired in error, but he was informed about it after hearing from concerned 1MM supporters. Way to go!" One Million Moms wrote on its website. "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!"

Urging people to sign its petition to Hallmark, the group wrote on its website: "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."

LifeSiteNews, a far-right evangelical website founded by the Campaign Life Coalition, recently started a petition urging Hallmark not to make Christmas movies featuring same-sex couples after Abbott told The Hollywood Reporter that Hallmark is "open" to doing any type of movie, including those with leading characters that are gay.

Newsweek has contacted the American Family Association for additional comment.

This article has been included to include a statement from GLAAD.

The Hallmark Channel is facing a backlash after it pulled ads for wedding planning website Zola that featured a lesbian couple. Zola