Hallmark Channel, known for its fluffy and romantic Christmas movies aired every holiday season, received backlash from One Million Moms, a Christian advocacy group notorious for its anti-LGBTQ sentiment, over ads for the wedding planning website Zola.com which were aired during one of its movies. The Zola ads featured two lesbian women kissing. “Shame on Hallmark for airing commercials with same-sex couples and even considering movies with LGBT content and lead characters,” said One Million Moms in a statement.“Hallmark is no longer allowing parents to be the primary educators when it comes to sex and sexual morality.” One Million Moms, despite its name, has less than 5,000 Twitter followers; it was also designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
This decision sparked controversy from much of Hallmark’s viewers, especially in this world where LGBTQ acceptance and tolerance is pretty much commonplace. The hashtag “#BoycottHallmarkChannel” was #1 on the trend list on Twitter the morning of Saturday, December 14. Ironically enough, Hallmark claimed they pulled the ad because it violated its policies of “public displays of affection,” when all of their movies feature incredibly romantic plots which feature far more kissing than just the single kiss between the lesbian couple in the ad. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Zola has since pulled all of its advertising from the Hallmark Channel. In a statement, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Chi, noted that the network had approved Zola commercials that featured a similar kiss between an opposite-sex couple”—implying that Hallmark itself showed some anti-LGBTQ sentiment to approve an ad with a heterosexual kiss yet pull an ad featuring lesbians kissing. “‘All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love,’ wrote Chi, ‘and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.’”
The boycott against Hallmark, which received lots of attention on Twitter and included a petition on Change.org which got nearly 2,600 signatures and an SNL parody, was a success, as Hallmark reversed their decision to pull the commercials Sunday night. They partnered up with Glaad, a pro-LGBTQ group, “to better represent the LGBTQ community across [their] portfolio of brands,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to remove this ad is discriminatory and especially hypocritical coming from a network that claims to present family programming and also recently stated they are open to holiday movies featuring LGBTQ characters,” said Glaad in a statement.
“We were deeply troubled when Hallmark rejected our commercials for featuring a lesbian couple celebrating their marriage, and are relieved to see that decision was reversed. We are humbled by everyone who showed support not only for Zola, but for all the LGBTQ couples and families who express their love on their wedding day, and every day,” said Mike Chi, Zola’s chief marketing officer, as per the same Wall Street Journal article. The company which owns Hallmark, Crown Media, pulled the ads not because they featured lesbians, but because the debate surrounding them was “distracting” from the channel’s aim to only entertain, according to a statement Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark, said to the Associated Press.
The Zola ads featuring the lesbians kissing will continue to air on Hallmark Channel.