ENTERTAINMENT
23/07/2020 4:37 PM AEST | Updated 23/07/2020 4:38 PM AEST

Hallmark Channel Says LGBTQ Stories Will Now Be Included In Christmas Movies

"Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us," a spokesperson for the cable network said, days after its announced holiday lineup was met with criticism.

The Hallmark Channel’s holiday movie universe is about to get more inclusive. 

Producers are in “active negotiations” to ensure that films in the channel’s annual “Countdown to Christmas” and “Miracles of Christmas” lineups include LGBTQ narratives, a Hallmark spokesman told HuffPost and other media outlets in an email.

“Diversity and inclusion [are] 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,” George Zaralidis, vice president of network program publicity at Hallmark’s parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, said. 

Zaralidis offered no specifics but added, “We are committed to creating a Hallmark experience where everyone feels welcome.”

The announcement coincided with Hallmark Channel’s “Christmas in July” celebration, which concludes this Sunday. It came days after the channel was hit with online criticism after announcing a slate of 40 new Christmas movies, none of which appeared to be LGBTQ-inclusive. 

“I’m cis and straight, and I would absolutely love to see movies with more queer leads,” tweeted author Rahaf Harfoush. “Always here for a good love story, let’s up the representation.”

Added journalist and screenwriter J.P. Larocque, “We are not free until a QUEER lonely careerist leaves the big city to run their small-town family business during the holidays and inadvertently falls in love with a generically good-looking person from their past.”

The Hallmark Channel sparked an outcry last year when it pulled four commercials that featured same-sex couples kissing. At the time, the channel said the ads, which were produced by the wedding planning site Zola, had been “deemed controversial” and in violation of company policy. After heated backlash, the channel offered an apology and returned the commercials to the airwaves.  

Just days later, actor Hilarie Burton claimed she was dismissed from a 2019 Hallmark Channel project because she requested more “diverse casting.” 

“I had insisted on a LGBTQ character, an interracial couple and diverse casting,” Burton, who starred in 2012’s “Naughty or Nice” and 2013’s “Christmas on the Bayou” for Hallmark, wrote in a series of tweets

Though she didn’t mention the title of the film, she said studio executives took “none of my requests” into consideration, at which point she was told to “take it or leave it.” 

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