Originally published on Advocate.com January 28 2005 12:00 AM ET
Two Vermont lesbian couples whose families are featured in a PBS children's program are upset the network has decided not to distribute the show. The PBS decision was announced after Margaret Spellings, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, criticized the episode as inappropriate for children. Vermont Public Television will air "Sugartime," an episode of the show Postcards From Buster that features a broad variety of American families.
"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode," Spellings wrote Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, the president and chief executive officer of PBS.
"I feel sick about it," Karen Pike of Hinesburg said of the PBS decision. She and her partner, Gillian Pieper, and their three children are featured in the episode. "I can't believe PBS would back down to this," she said. "I understand they get public funding, but they should be the one station we feel confident in, in knowing that what we see there represents our whole country."
In the series, Buster, an animated rabbit, visits children around the country with his airline-pilot father and sends video postcards back to his friends.
"We reflect the diversity and the rich culture of American kids," said Jeanne Hopkins, a spokeswoman for WGBH, which produced the show.
The Vermont episode shows maple sugaring and the Shelburne Museum, and features the children of the two lesbian couples. Hopkins said WGBH will distribute the episode to any PBS station that asks for it. PBS spokeswoman Lea Sloan said PBS reached its decision independent of Spellings's letter after concluding on its own that the episode was "sensitive in today's political climate."
"I feel betrayed as a parent," said Tracy Harris of Charlotte. She and Gina D'Ambrosio and their three children, ages 7 to 13, are the other family on the program. "I thought long and hard whether to do this program, because it involved my kids, not just me," she said. "And, you know, when it comes to my kids, I usually err on the side of caution. In this case, I decided to take a calculated risk, because it was PBS."
Vermont Public Television decided Wednesday morning that it will show the episode March 23, VPT spokeswoman Ann Curran said Wednesday. "This is something we think is an important Vermont story," she said. "Civil unions are an important part of life in Vermont, part of the culture of Vermont." (AP)