TV channel apologises after removing gay kiss advert

16 December 2019, 11:24

The kiss appears in an advert for wedding planning
The kiss appears in an advert for wedding planning. Picture: Zola
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A TV channel has apologised after it removed an advert which showed a lesbian couple kissing at the altar, following complaints from a conservative group.

The Hallmark Channel had pulled ads for a wedding-planning website that featured two brides kissing at the altar following pressure from a conservative advocacy group called One Million Moms.

The network, which is in the midst of its heavily watched Christmas programming, removed the ads because the controversy was a distraction, a spokeswoman said at the weekend.

But after backlash the company apologised for the move, in a social media post a spokesperson said: "Crown Media Family Networks apologizes for the decision to remove an ad featuring a same-sex couple. 'We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused,' said Mike Perry President & CEO, Hallmark Cards Inc."

The couple in the advert
The couple in the advert. Picture: Zola

In one of the adverts for Zola, two brides stand at the altar and discuss whether their wedding would go more smoothly if they had used a planning site before sharing a kiss.

Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark, said of the decision to ban the advert: "The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.

"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."

There was an immediate backlash against the decision on social media as celebrities weighed in on the issue.

Ellen DeGeneres asked Hallmark: "Isn't it almost 2020? What are you thinking? Please explain. We're all ears."

Ms Biwer said a conservative group, One Million Moms, part of the American Family Association, had complained about the ads to Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark's parent company.

A post on the group's website said that Mr Abbott "reported the advertisement aired in error".

The group also wrote: "The call to our office gave us the opportunity to confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family-friendly network."

Zola had submitted six adverts, four of which featured a lesbian couple.

After Hallmark pulled those ads, but not two featuring only opposite-sex couples, Zola pulled its remaining ads, the company said.

Zola’s chief marketing officer Mike Chi said: ‘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.