The Hallmark Channel isn’t exactly known for its LGBTQ inclusivity. But recently, the company has taken baby steps to include more same-sex couples in its programming, and conservative groups are not happy.
Last week, the Hallmark Channel announced that it would be “open” to featuring LGBTQ couples in its holiday rom-coms in the future. The channel will debut 24 new holiday movies this year, and not a single one features a same-sex couple — but after criticism from viewers, the company is now looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies. “We’re open to really any type of movie of any type of relationship,” Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company, told The Hollywood Reporter. In response, thousands of naysayers signed petitions to urge Hallmark to avoid this content.
Then Hallmark ran a commercial that features a lesbian wedding, complete with a kiss between two women. The commercial is for Zola, a wedding planning company.
Between the commercial and the potential for new LGBTQ movies, the conservative backlash has grown even stronger. Christian group One Million Moms is now calling for a boycott of the channel.
“Please reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples, and please do not add LGBT movies to the Hallmark Channel,” One Million Moms wrote. “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.”
Their response continued: “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.”
Zola’s chief marketing officer, Mike Chi, told The Daily Mail that the company stands behind their ad. “We’ve always focused on portraying a diverse set of couples in our advertisements,” Chi said. Zola is in contact with Hallmark over the backlash, and they aren’t concerned about whether the channel will pull the ad.
“We would not change our messaging due to any one of our partners not wanting to air the ad,” Chi said. “We believe it’s a representation of our company and what we are trying to achieve…and that will be what we continue to do in marketing messaging.”
Update 12/14/19: Hallmark pulled all of the ads from Zola that featured a same-sex wedding. In response, Zola canceled the rest of their advertising on Hallmark, according to a statement.