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Hallmark CEO apologizes for pulling ads showing lesbian couple; network will run ad after criticism


The company said it's been 'agonizing' over the decision

An image from a Zola ad that caused controversy on the Hallmark Channel. (Image source: CBS News video screenshot)

The CEO of Hallmark apologized Sunday for temporarily removing a series of advertisements that depicted a same-sex wedding, calling the choice to pull the ad in response to criticism from a conservative group "the wrong decision," according to Forbes.

The ads in question were for Zola, a wedding planning start-up. A series of four ads showed two women kissing during a wedding.

"The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we've seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused," Hallmark CEO Mike Perry said. "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."

Hallmark pulled the ads on Thursday after a petition by One Million Moms, a branch of the conservative American Family Association, gained more than 20,000 signatures.

"Why would you show a lesbian wedding commercial on the Hallmark Channel," read a statement on the One Million Moms website. "Hallmark movies are family friendly, and you ruined it with the commercial."

According to the New York Times, a Hallmark employee said the network pulled the ads because the channel doesn't accept ads "that are deemed controversial."

The network's messaging on the reason for pulling the advertisements was not consistent, however. Two ads from the company that featured heterosexual couples kissing were not pulled, even though a Hallmark spokesman claimed the decision was based on a policy against ads with "overt public displays of affection ... regardless of the participants."

Thousands of people posted on Twitter under the #BoycottHallmark hashtag, and Zola called out the network for the inconsistency, and announced it would no longer advertise with Hallmark. Zola chief marketing officer Mike Chi said the company has run same-sex ads on the network before with no pushback.

"The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark's standards included a lesbian couple kissing," Chi said, according to the Times. "Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed. All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark."

The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD was a leading voice in the backlash against Hallmark after the ads were pulled.

"@hallmarkchannel's decision to remove LGBTQ families in such a blatant way is discriminatory and especially hypocritical coming from a network that claims to present family programming and also recently stated they are 'open' to LGBTQ holiday movies," the group wrote in a tweet.

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