The upcoming TLC show My Husband's Not Gay has drawn widespread criticism and faces calls for cancellation because it appears to give credence to the idea that gay people can choose to be straight.
The one-hour special about four Mormon men in Salt Lake City who are married to women but admit to being attracted to men will air Sunday on TLC, the home network of 19 Kids and Counting and Sister Wives.
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis says the show's portrayal of supposed conversion from gay to straight is dangerous for LGBT youth.
"This show is downright irresponsible," Ellis said in a statement Tuesday. "No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to. By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm's way."
As of Tuesday morning, more than 76,000 people have signed a Change.org petition initiated by Josh Sanders, which calls for TLC to cancel the special.
"As a gay Christian man who's seen first hand how this message can harm people, I am calling on TLC to cancel My Husband's Not Gay and to stop telling America that LGBT people should lie to themselves and to their faith communities about who they are and who they love," Sanders wrote.
Sanders added that as a gay Christian, he too was told that being gay was "unnatural" and to "pray the gay away" before being sent to so-called reparative therapy. Sanders wrote that this therapy led to mental anguish and made him feel his life was not worth living.
TLC released a statement Tuesday morning defending its decision to run the show. The cable network claims the show is a part of TLC's mission to show people's real lives without judgment. TLC added that the men are speaking for themselves and should not be seen as an example of how people in general should act.
According to a press release from the organization Truth Wins Out, which opposes "ex-gay" therapy, seven of the people featured in the special are "deeply affiliated with North Star, a radical Mormon 'ex-gay' group." One of the members, Jeff Bennion, has written in defense of ex-gay therapy and the Mormon Church's now-revoked policy that barred black men from being ordained as clergy.
Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen called out TLC for airing what he says is "an advertisement for the fraudulent 'ex-gay' industry." He added, "While millions of Americans will react to this special with tongue-in-cheek skepticism, it's highly irresponsible to propagate the false notion that people can and should choose between their sexuality and their faith, especially when impressionable, scared teenagers in conservative religious homes might be watching. Rejection by religious parents leads to depression and oftentimes suicide for LGBT youths, as we saw yet again in the tragic recent death of Leelah Alcorn. For the network to air this infomercial for junk science is unconscionable."