After concern that none of the 40 films Hallmark announced as part of its 2020-2021 holiday lineup included an LGBTQ lead, a representative from the company said some of the movies in its "Countdown to Christmas" and "Miracles of Christmas" programming "will include LGBTQ storylines, characters and actors."
"Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us and we look forward to making some exciting programming announcements in the coming months, including announcements about projects featuring LGBTQ storylines, characters, and actors," wrote George Zaralidis, the vice president of network program publicity at Hallmark's parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, in an emailed statement. "We are committed to creating a Hallmark experience where everyone feels welcome."
Zaralidis added that the company is in "active negotiations" and will announce "more details when we can."
Hallmark did not include a full list of the 40 upcoming movies in its initial announcement, instead naming 18 of the 40 forthcoming movie titles, prompting some online to assume that the company would omit LGBTQ storylines as it has in past years.
LGBTQ audiences have been long advocating for greater queer representation from Crown Media. Shortly after The Wrap reported that neither Hallmark nor Lifetime were featuring any LGBTQ leads in their 2019 lineups, Bill Abbott, the former CEO of Crown Media, told the Hollywood Reporter that the network was open to “any type of movie of any type of relationship in any space" and the company's executive vice president of programming and network publicity, Michelle Vicary, stated that Crown Media was actively seeking to expand its offerings to include queer couples.
“We are continuing to expand our diversity,” Vicary said. “We are looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies … and we are looking to expand and represent the United States as a whole.”
Not everyone was thrilled about the company asserting that it would center LGBTQ characters in future movies, however. One Million Moms, which bills itself as a group of parents who are working to stop the “exploitation of children” by entertainment media, and LifeSiteNews, a right-wing Catholic news organization that has been criticized for promoting false stories, like one linking trans healthcare to thousands of deaths, each issued separate petitions last year asking Hallmark to keep its content “family-friendly” by keeping the “promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism” out of its movies and advertisements.
Crown Media's commitment to inclusivity was further called into question after Hallmark removed, then reinstated, a wedding ad featuring a same-sex couple in December.
"The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we've seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused," Hallmark President and CEO Mike Perry said in a statement at the time, adding that Hallmark planned to work with GLAAD, the premier LGBTQ media representation group, "to better represent the LGBTQ community" across its brands.
After Hallmark's reversal, GLAAD's president, Sarah Kate Ellis, said the company's decision sent an important message to LGBTQ people and signaled a "major loss" for "fringe organizations" that aim to "hurt families like mine."
GLAAD declined to comment on Hallmark's forthcoming holiday programming until the full list of movies is announced. According to Entertainment Weekly, several movies of the 40 movies wrapped production earlier this year before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
Abbott stepped down from his role as CEO in January following the backlash over the same-sex wedding ad and his replacement has not been announced nor is it listed on a company webpage naming its executive leadership.