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Why did Hallmark have to be told that anti-LGBTQ bigotry leveled at the Zola ad was wrong?

The Daily Beast

December 16, 2019

Hallmark gave in to One Million Moms, pulling Zola’s ads showing a lesbian couple. Then it reversed its decision. It should have known anti-LGBTQ bigotry was wrong from the get-go.

It had a happy ending, of course. In the end the Hallmark Channel told the bigots of One Million Moms where to go—but only after first capitulating to their prejudice.

On Thursday Hallmark initially did what One Million Moms had asked them to do, which was to terminate the on-screen advertising of, a wedding website that—shock, horror—featured a lesbian couple getting married and looking happy.

This was too much for One Million Moms, who launched a noxious petition last Thursday, thus: “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.”

The one reassuring thing about One Million Moms: they don’t bother hiding their bigotry. Here, they came right out and said that LGBTQ people, for them, do not exist as families in their own right, or as parts of families.

The one bad thing about Hallmark’s programming, which meant it initially leapt to One Million Moms’ tune: it lacks diversity. Consider its relentlessly hetero Christmas movies in comparison to Lifetime’s efforts to expand the genre with Twinkle All the Way.

There were four Zola advertisements, featuring these terrifying, defiling images of happy same-sex couples, that Hallmark initially scrapped. They did so, One Million Moms boasted, after the group had spoken personally to Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbott. The network did not reject Zola’s ads featuring different-sex couples.

An online backlash to Hallmark’s decision bloomed fast enough, and by Sunday night, Mike Perry, the president and chief executive of Hallmark Cards, said the team at Hallmark Channel’s parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, had “been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” and that “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,” Perry said. “Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”

Hallmark will now work with GLAAD “to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands.” Hallmark said it would also be in touch with Zola to restart their commercials. The company said it had been “deeply troubled,” by the rejection of their advertisements, and was now “relieved” to see the decision 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,” the company’s Mike Chi told The New York Times.

The point isn’t that Hallmark eventually did the right thing; it’s that they should never have done the wrong thing—and capitulated to One Million Moms’ prejudice—in the first place. This isn’t about “hurt” and “disappointment,” it’s about standing up to bigotry. Hallmark shouldn’t have done the right thing only after an online backlash against their decision to terminate Zola’s advertising.

That this was a controversy in the first place is both ridiculous and an indictment of corporate ignorance. A major company in 2019, which supposedly values diversity and inclusion, should not need to be protested. They should be standing up for LGBTQ people, their rights and equality, anyway.

LGBTQ people should feature in Hallmark’s programming to such an extent that protests by groups like One Million Moms sound as meaningless as they deserve to be. They should feature as characters, and populate advertisements, just as their straight counterparts do. It should be a given. If Hallmark treated LGBTQ people equally, there would be no controversy. If they stopped running scared of groups like One Million Moms, there would be no controversy.

LGBTQ people are used to fighting for our rights; in this current era, after a period of expansion in the arena of equality, we are in bunker mode, fighting to protect the rights we have won from being chipped away at under the guise of “religious freedom,” and pure and simple bigotry—as in the Trump administration’s ban on trans people serving in the armed forces.

Those groups like One Million Moms are feeling emboldened in their anti-LGBTQ mission. This means that such groups will go after any small advance, any small recognition of LGBTQ people and the validity of their lives, and seek to squash it—hence them going nuts over a commercial showing a happy lesbian couple.

Yes, LGBTQ people and their allies can fight back in such circumstances; we are depressingly used to the dynamics here. But the weariness and the alarm around the Hallmark/One Million Moms blow-up is that we have to still. When, without LGBTQ pressure, will companies do the right thing, and actively support and promote the principles of equality and equal treatment without having to be told to do so?

What the Hallmark and One Million Moms stand-off really shows to LGBTQ people—as if we didn’t know it—is that, we think we have come far. It feels as if we have. But that distance, that change, also feels fragile—and in moments like this controversy that fragility is coupled with an offensive absurdity.

Sure, LGBTQ people will continue this campaign for equality. We know we have to, it’s what we have always done and will continue to do. But Hallmark, and other companies and individuals like them, do you have to be told, shamed, over and over again to do the right thing? Could you not just get with it, and be there for LGBTQ people? It sure would help.