If Alabama is serious about being pro-life, it should air the banned Arthur gay marriage episode

This isn't the first time the state has made a move to 'protect children' from images of normal families. Their stance makes no logical or compassionate sense

Jennifer Stavros
Wednesday 22 May 2019 17:16 BST
Mr Ratburn married his same-sex partner in an episode of Arthur which aired across most states called 'Mr Ratburn and the Special Someone'
Mr Ratburn married his same-sex partner in an episode of Arthur which aired across most states called 'Mr Ratburn and the Special Someone' (PBS)

PBS show Arthur opened their 22nd season recently with a significant new storyline. Arthur’s teacher Mr Ratburn was featured marrying a “very special person”, who happened to be his male partner.

For the LGBTQIA community, this was a clear win. But for some parts of America, defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. The state of Alabama is refusing to air the episode, ostensibly on the grounds of "child protection".

"Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children's programs that entertain, educate and inspire," APT was quoted as telling local Alabama news site AL.com. "More importantly – although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards – parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the 'target' audience for Arthur also watch the program."

Flashback to 2005, before gay marriage was legal. Back then, Alabama blocked an episode from an Arthur spinoff show called Postcards from Buster where Arthur’s friend Buster met a child with two moms. The episode called “Sugartime” focused on the value these parents had with their families.

“'Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming. This program doesn't fit into that,'' Alabama Public Television told AL.com in 2005, when making that decision.

Alabama has been getting a bevy of headlines about their pro-life stance lately. If they’re pro-life, however, shouldn’t they then be pro-families? How can you possibly support bringing any and all children into the world, regardless of circumstance, if you’re also fundamentally opposed to the existence of one type of family?

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When I was growing up in Illinois, I had a close friend whose moms were gay. We didn’t really talk about it when we were kids. In small-town Illinois, her moms (who had both been previously married to opposite-sex partners and also both had children through them) referred to each other as “sisters.” My friend and I realize in hindsight that it was because of the stigma associated with gay families. Even now, years later, her kids refer to their grandmas as aunts.

As kids in a different time, I don’t think either of us really noticed how important representation for families like hers was. Our crew of high school friends just saw families. We realized they are all different and beautiful in their own ways.

Living in California now as a bisexual woman, I’m happy that gay parents are able to be actively open about their status. Modern-day programming is doing things for our families that we couldn’t have dreamed of when my Illinois friends and I were kids.

My friend’s moms never got to marry. One of her moms died before laws ensuring equal marriage rights were in place. Looking back, I wonder what her moms would have thought if they had been able to see the loving acceptance that the newest Arthur episode has received across almost all of the country. Would they have felt more comfortable being open or would they have still continued to simply exist as “aunts” because shame and stigma is still perpetuated in some pockets of the country through censorship and veiled discussions about “protecting children”, as it is in Alabama?

Gay families like my friends' moms shouldn’t have to be hushed into corners. Gay marriage has been legal in Alabama since 2015. It seems the state wants to hold firm with old, prejudicial beliefs, even to the point of ignoring laws which govern them.

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Over a decade after the legalization of equal marriage, you would think that a place that is so determined to insist that they are pro-life would be abundantly pro-family. Over a decade after the legalization of equal marriage, you would think that perhaps their values might have evolved to where a show advocating for gay families might be something that would be welcomed.

How can Alabama possibly try to claim that they are pro-family when they repeatedly censor inclusive family programming? The state’s specific choices on what is considered a family, what is considered a life worth saving and what is best for a child are deplorable. If you’re not going to support gay families, save me the lip service that you’re pro-life. Your views are not logical, not consistent and, above all, not compassionate.

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