The president and CEO of Hallmark, Inc., announced on Sunday that the company will be reversing a controversial decision it made earlier this month to pull advertisements that featured a lesbian couple tying the knot and sharing a kiss following backlash from conservatives.
Hallmark Cards CEO Mike Perry said that the team at the parent company behind The Hallmark Channel, Crown Media Family Networks, has “been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused.”
“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,” he continued.
Hallmark Channel pulled four TV ads last week after a petition to remove the ads by the conservative group One Million Moms received nearly 26,000 signatures.
The ads, which first aired on the channel on Dec. 2, were produced by the wedding website host Zola.com and featured several couples pondering how their wedding day would be different if they used the website to publish their details for guests. The four ads that were pulled were part of a larger six-ad series that primarily focused on straight newlyweds, The New York Times reported.
Earlier this month, One Million Moms, a branch of the SPLC-rated hate group American Family Association, posted a petition about the ads, saying, “The Hallmark Channel has always been known for its family friendly movies. Even its commercials are usually safe for family viewing. But unfortunately, that is not the case anymore.”
Hallmark notified Zola on Thursday that four of its ads would be removed.
When an ad buyer representing Zola asked the channel for an explanation, Hallmark in an email replied, “We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial.”
“The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories,” a spokesperson for the Hallmark Channel told the Times on Friday.
Mike Chi, Zola’s chief marketing officer, said that “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.”
Continuing, he added, “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.”
The One Million Moms petition also targeted comments made by Michelle Vicary, vice president of programming at the channel, in a recent interview with The Wrap. Vicary said that the channel is exploring developing LGBTQ movies.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, criticized the channel’s decision to pull the ads.
“Families are built on love—no matter what they look like,” Buttigieg, the first openly gay Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted Sunday.
“Being ‘family friendly’ means honoring love, not censoring difference,” Buttigieg said.
“This truth will be more important than ever as we rebuild our nation into a place defined by belonging, not by exclusion,” he added.
Families are built on love—no matter what they look like.
Being “family friendly” means honoring love, not censoring difference. This truth will be more important than ever as we rebuild our nation into a place defined by belonging, not by exclusion. https://t.co/pl5B1BtIdf
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 15, 2019
Social media users slammed the channel’s initial decision to pull the ads:
might as well change their name then pic.twitter.com/HECET96J01
— Steffy (@steffyj17) December 14, 2019
In response to much of the criticism the company received over its decision to air and then later remove the ads, a spokesperson for the Hallmark Channel said the ban was in line with its company policy.
“The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories,” the representative said.
The company said that it “will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials.”
“Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences,” Perry said.
A spokesperson for Zola has also since told CNN that the wedding planning company will be in talks with the network “regarding a potential return to advertising.”