After massive pushback, the Hallmark Channel has issued a statement apologizing for banning a Zola ad that featured a lesbian wedding. The network has also promised to reinstate the clip, while the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has said it looks forward to working with Hallmark to right the wrongs.
On Thursday, news broke that Hallmark Channel had pulled ads featuring a lesbian couple kissing after pushback from conservative groups,” The kisses violated the channel’s policies for its “public displays of affection,” a spokesman told the New York Times. There was no explanation as to why nearly identical commercials featuring opposite sex couples did not violate that same policy.
The counter-backlash was overwhelming. Organizations like GLAAD as well as HRC came out strongly against the decision to pull the ad. Freeform, another cable channel, stepped into the fray, telling Zola to “call us.” Multiple people called for boycotts of Hallmark Channel, and HRC collected over 50,000 names condemning the move — the organization also suspended Hallmark from its Corporate Equality Index score, which rates corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBTQ+ employees. What compounded the situation is that the news broke after reports that gay Christmas movies could be coming to the network.
Just over a week before, Hallmark Channel CEO Bill Abbott said that the network was “open” to including same-sex romances.This was a decisive 180 from that.
On Sunday, the channel issued an apology for pulling the Zola ad.
“Earlier this week, a decision was made at Crown Media Family Networks to remove commercials featuring a same sex couple,” Mike Perry, President and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc. wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. Crown Media Family Networks is an umbrella company for Hallmark Channel. “The Crown Media team 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.”
“We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.” In the tweet, the channel also said that it would be “working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands.” They also promised to reinstate the commercials and “reestablish” their partnership with Zola.
"The Hallmark Channel's decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, like One Million Moms, whose sole purpose is to hurt families like mine," GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "LGBTQ people are, and will continue to be a part of advertisements and family programming and that will never change."