Hallmark Channel Pulls Commercials Featuring Brides Kissing After 'Distracting' Controversy

The Hallmark Channel pulled four commercials related to same-sex couples kissing on Thursday after pressure from conservative group One Million Moms.

Ads from wedding planning website Zola, which first appeared on the Hallmark Channel on Dec. 2 according to The New York Times, showed the couples — most of which are same-sex females — standing at the altar and wondering if their guests would have arrived on time and bought them better gifts had they used Zola. The couples eventually kiss while celebrated by their family and friends.

One Million Moms, a division of the conservative American Family Association, published a petition urging Hallmark to no longer air ads featuring same-sex couples. As of Sunday morning, the petition reached over 27,000 signatures.

“The Hallmark Channel has always been known for its family friendly movies,” the petition said. “Even its commercials are usually safe for family viewing. But unfortunately, that is not the case anymore.“

Numerous viewers expressed their displeasure at the takedown of the ads, with Ellen DeGeneres tweeting: “Isn’t it almost 2020? @hallmarkchannel, @billabbottHC… what are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears.“

The conservative group said on their website that after talking to Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbot, the Hallmark Channel decided to pull Zola’s ads.

In a statement to the Times, Crown Media Family Networks, the channel’s parent company, confirmed the decision to pull the ads. “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value,” the statement read.

And in an email exchange with the Times, a spokesperson for Hallmark said the women’s “public displays of affection” violated the channel’s policies, but declined to comment on why an ad featuring a heterosexual couple kissing was not pulled.

A spokesperson for Hallmark did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

The Hallmark Channel spokesman explained to the outlet on Friday that the issue was the same-sex couples kissing: “The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories.“

Mike Chi, the chief marketing officer of Zola, said in a statement to the Times that he did not believe the kiss was the issue for Hallmark.

“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,” he said. “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.”

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