Thousands are signing a petition in protest of a new TLC program showing men who say they're attracted to other men, but choose to marry women because of their Mormon faith.
The petition on Change.org was started by Josh Sanders to gather up enough signatures to make TLC aware that some find the idea that homosexuality is a choice to be offensive. The TV show, entitled "My Husband's Not Gay," is scheduled to begin airing on January 11.
"I started this petition because these men deserve compassion and acceptance," said Sanders, a man who describes himself as a devout Christian who was subjected to therapy to turn him away from homosexuality. "Instead, TLC is presenting their lives as entertainment, and sending the dangerous message that being gay is something that can and ought to be changed."
Sanders describes his treatment as a young person with gay thoughts. "As a devout Christian, I understand the important role faith plays in the lives of the show's main characters. It was made very clear to me by the conservative community I grew up in that being gay was considered 'unnatural' and 'an abomination.' So I, too, did everything possible to hide who I am. I was even subjected to six months of so-called 'reparative therapy,' a discredited and dangerous practice that falsely claims to turn gay people straight. I was promised I could change, and told that I should 'pray the gay away,'" he said in the petition's synopsis.
TLC is certainly no stranger to controversy as the network has previous dealt with a variety of cutting-edge sensitive topics in shows like "All-American Muslim," "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," and "19 Kids and Counting." But this most recent program is not only inciting protest in those opposed to the overt message that homosexuality is a choice, but also those who feel that the show will instead paint religion as the bad guy in an underlying message that is often used in these types of shows to exploit the conservative Christian viewpoint.
Mormon blogger Jana Reiss also points out how dangerous it can be to be black-and-white on the issue of homosexuality for Mormons. "This insistence on homosexuality being a struggle to overcome can lead to tragic consequences when LGBT young people find that, in fact, they can't overcome it. Suicide and homelessness are realities for too many LGBT Mormon youth.
"And when the denial of a person's sexual identity leads to the extreme measure of taking on a "straight" marriage in order to remain fully in the fold, it is, ironically, damaging to the family, the very institution that the LDS Church claims to be defending," she continues.
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis has condemned TLC's decision to run the show, saying in a statement that, "This show is downright irresponsible. 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."
But TLC responded to the protests. "TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment. The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made, and speak only for themselves."
Currently, the petition has gathered over 91,000 signatures with a little over 58,000 left to reach its goal.