(Photo Credit: Zola YouTube Screenshot)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A decision was made earlier in December 2019 at Crown Media Family Networks to remove commercials featuring a same-sex couple due to complaints from the conservative group One Million Moms, Deadline reported. The organization said that the exchange of a same-sex couple kiss was “not family-friendly” and resulted in a petition being sent to Hallmark about the commercial and other LGBTQ content, Deadline added. That decision created a backlash from viewers and LGBTQ rights organizations nationwide and created a media firestorm.

GLAAD created a counter-petition to have the ads reinstated.

Deadline further reported that GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis “followed up with a statement saying, ‘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. LGBTQ people are, and will continue to be a part of advertisements and family programming and that will never change. GLAAD exists to hold brands like The Hallmark Channel accountable when they make discriminatory decisions and to proactively ensure families of all kinds are represented in fair and accurate ways.’”

“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. 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.” said Mike Perry, president and CEO, Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Hallmark added that it “is, and always has been, committed to diversity and inclusion — both in our workplace as well as the products and experiences we create. It is never Hallmark’s intention to be divisive or generate controversy. We are an inclusive company and have a track record to prove it. We have LGBTQ greeting cards and feature LGBTQ couples in commercials.”

The company has been recognized as one of the Human Rights Campaigns Best Places to Work, and as one of Forbes America’s Best Employers for Diversity. They say they have been a progressive pioneer on television for decades — “telling wide-ranging stories that elevate the human spirit,” several of which highlight the importance of tolerance and understanding.

Hallmark said they will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across their portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel reached out to Zola to re-establish its partnership and reinstated the commercials.

“Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences,” Perry said.

Last year, actress Hilarie Burton and the network parted ways over her stand for more inclusive and diverse roles in Hallmark’s movies, IBT reported.

IBT added, “Just going through some old emails from a #Hallmark job I was ‘let go’ from back in January,” Burton wrote. “I had insisted on an LGBTQ character, an interracial couple and diverse casting. I was polite, direct and professional. But after the execs gave their notes on the script and NONE of my requests were honored, I was told ‘take it or leave it.’ I left it. And the paycheck.”

Burton, who is married to actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, said that if she were the sole provider of her family, that she would have to choose money rather than principle. She also praised Lifetime for their inclusivity.

info: hallmark.com. bit.ly/2sQM4Rr. bit.ly/2rXTv8U.

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.