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Hallmark Channel apologizes for pulling ads featuring same-sex weddings

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The Hallmark Channel is reversing its decision to pull advertisements featuring same-sex couples and apologizing for removing them in the first place, a network spokeswoman told CNN Business.

The decision comes after Hallmark parent company Crown Media Family Networks faced calls for viewers and advertisers to boycott its television channel. The ads, from online wedding planning company Zola, showed same-sex couples celebrating marriages.

Hallmark president and CEO Mike Perry said Sunday that the company made the "wrong decision" and wants to reinstate the commercials.

"The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we've seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused. Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision," Perry said in a statement provided to CNN Business.

"Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts for this purpose is not who we are," he said. "As the CEO of Hallmark, I am sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused."

Zola said earlier that the ads pulled were among several similar commercials slated to run on Hallmark and that "the only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved" is that the flagged ads included a lesbian couple kissing. The company said a commercial featuring a heterosexual couple kissing was approved.

One of the ads in question features a lesbian couple at the altar on their wedding day discussing whether they should have used Zola to share details of their ceremony and registry with their guests.

Hallmark removed the ads after conservative group One Million Moms created a targeted campaign calling on the network to remove the ads and ban other content showing same-sex couples.

In its original statement, Hallmark said it pulled the ads because the "debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value."

Now, though, CEO Perry says that Hallmark will reach out to Zola to "reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials." It will also work with the advocacy organization GLAAD to "better represent" the LGBTQ community across its brands.

Zola said late Sunday that it will be in touch with Hallmark " regarding a potential return to advertising."

"We were deeply troubled when Hallmark rejected our commercials for featuring a lesbian couple celebrating their marriage, and are relieved to see that decision was reversed," Zola Chief Marketing Officer Mike Chi told CNN Business. Before Hallmark's reversal, the company removed the rest of its ads from the channel.

Hallmark faced backlash from hundreds of users on social media over its initial decision to pull the commercials.

"@Hallmarkchannel has bowed to anti-family activists who seek to erase our community," LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said on Twitter. "For a channel whose brand is love, Hallmark is leading with fear and discrimination."

Many called on viewers to stop watching the Hallmark Channel, which is in the thick of holiday movie season. Some other TV and streaming brands even jumped into the conversation on Twitter to let viewers know they have other options.

Freeform, a cable channel owned by Disney, tweeted, "This is what happens when you focus all your energy on exclusion instead of clever plotlines. Call us, @Zola. We celebrate the holidays with everyone."

Netflix also tweeted a not-so-subtle comment on the controversy, listing a few titles in its library that feature, "Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also It's Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They Love."

Some also called for people to stop buying products owned by Hallmark, such as greeting cards and Crayola crayons.

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