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The Hallmark Scandal Is a Sign of LGBTQ Progress, Not Backsliding

Ellen Kahn

After a gay-positive ad was yanked from TV, Ellen Kahn of the Human Rights Campaign found a case for optimism, both personally and professionally.

At my wedding, I wore a pink suit. And on that perfect early spring afternoon, I got down on bended knee and sang "Passionate Kisses" to my partner, my soul mate, my new spouse.

At my wedding, a swarm of young children -- like tiny jets fueled by cake and juice -- ran through the garden chasing the neighborhood wild bunnies and each other. My own children were radiantly happy -- one even sang "backup" for my serenade.

At my wedding, I joked around with some of my work colleagues sitting in the afternoon sun, while my spouse chatted with the band members about where to catch some good jazz in the city.

At my wedding, I married another woman, surrounded and embraced by our newly melded families and friends. At my wedding, I may have taken for granted the sheer ordinariness of our lovely celebration, an ordinariness I've fought for my entire career.

I don't now.

When news broke that Hallmark had caved to pressure from anti-LGBTQ groups and pulled an ad from Zola featuring a couple with two brides, I was as shocked as I was angry: that these "concerned moms" somehow found the image of two women kissing more upsetting and worthy of protest than school shootings or children in cages, and that Hallmark would take action based on the outcry of these extremist few.

But after the initial jolt passed, I realized I shouldn't have been surprised. I've been in the fight for LGBTQ equality for 30 years; I should know better than to ever feel complacent about any of our hard-won gains, or to underestimate the depth of bigotry.

In my work at the Human Rights Campaign, I have seen our community attacked, belittled and yes, erased. I have seen the heartbreaking toll of bullying and discrimination on our LGBTQ youth, and countless young people denied safe and loving homes with LGBTQ parents because governments have allowed discrimination by adoption agencies. And over the past three years, I have seen LGBTQ people become a political target and punching bag for this nation's loathsome administration.

But I've also seen our community and our allies jump into action to defend and support each other on issues big and small -- from marching for equality in both freezing rain and sweltering heat, and testifying before Congress, to writing letters and showing up magnificently at the polls.

And there you were again: when Hallmark capitulated to anti-LGBTQ forces, we asked you to speak out against our erasure and within 48 hours more than 70,000 of you joined HRC in calling on the company to reverse its decision. You had our backs when we suspended their HRC Corporate Equality Index (CEI) score, which measures LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices and lets consumers and employees know if a company is welcoming to our community.

With our grassroots army behind us, we went to the table with Hallmark armed with an overwhelming mandate for them to do the right thing.

Thanks to you, they did. They also apologized, we reinstated their CEI score, and they are now hopefully on a better path to representing -- and celebrating -- the diversity of our nation and their audiences. Justice and equity are a journey, and we all have room to grow. And we all have important work to do.

So we must keep fighting, because while love won this weekend, this is a battle that continues.

At my wedding, I was lucky enough to marry someone who laughs at my jokes, who understands my quirks, who embraces my kids, who whips up a five star meal in minutes.

At my wedding, I was surrounded by the most important people in my life -- my family, both chosen and blood, my friends, my community.

At my wedding, looking at the queer joy, the ordinary joy around me, I felt deeply grateful. Whatever the future brings, I am ready to keep fighting because this is a joy that sustains me and a love that will carry me -- and us -- forward, always forward.

Ellen Kahn is the Senior Director, Programs and Partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign.

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Ellen Kahn