Less than a week after taking ads for Zola, a wedding planning website, off the air, Hallmark reversed their decision to pull the same-sex wedding ad. On Sunday, Hallmark President and CEO Mike Perry issued an apology for the company's decision in a statement on the Hallmark website. Not only did Perry apologize, he also promised to reinstate ads with Zola and partner with LGBTQIA+ organizations to be more inclusive in the future.
On Thursday, the Hallmark Channel pulled four TV ads from Zola following a campaign from a conservative group, according to the New York Times. In one of the pulled commercials, two brides contemplate the wedding planning features Zola offers at the alter, and then share a kiss. In an initial statement from Hallmark, representatives argued the ads were pulled because, "public displays of affection violated the channel’s policies," but failed to address why Zola ads featuring heterosexual couples kissing were not rejected.
In his recent statement, Perry wrote that the Crown Media team had been "agonizing over this decision" after seeing the "hurt it has unintentionally caused." He acknowledged the company made the wrong decision, and wrote, "We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused."
Following the initial action to take remove the ad from the chanel, the LGBTQIA+ community and allies criticized Hallmark, and the hashtags #boycotthallmark and #BoycottHallmarkChannel were trending on Sunday, according to the Washington Post. On Saturday, Ellen DeGeneres tweeted, "Isn’t it almost 2020? @hallmarkchannel, @billabbotHC.. what are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears." Netflix called out Hallmark's discrimination on Twitter as well, writing, "Titles Featuring Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also It’s Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They Love."
Due largely to pushback online, Hallmark reversed its initial decision to remove the ads, and promised to reach out to the wedding brand and reinstate partnership, as Zola discontinued working with the channel following the controversy, according to the Washington Post. Hallmark's statement also promised to partner with GLAAD to, "better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio brands."
On Saturday, GLAAD called out the network on Twitter for failing to live up to company executive's statements about diversity and inclusion, writing, "The Hallmark Channel’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." GLAAD wasn't the only advocacy group organizing to voice the community's outrage, and on Sunday, the Human Rights Campaign said 70,000 people signed a petition against the network in a statement.
On Sunday, GLAAD tweeted a thank-you to advocates who spoke out against the decision, writing, "You spoke out and @hallmarkchannel listened. LGBTQ people deserve to see ourselves represented on all TV networks. Thank you to everyone who raised your voices."
Hallmark's decision to reinstate the commercials represents a big win for LGBTQIA+, community, and in a statement, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said the decision to correct the mistake, "sends and 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."
Whether or not this shift in advertising will extend to Hallmark's original content, which has been criticized for a lack of LGBTQ representation, remains to be seen.