“Sesame Street” icons Bert and Ernie are at the center of a gay rights controversy again, but this time it’s across the pond.
A Northern Ireland bakery is facing legal action for refusing to bake a cake featuring the famous Muppet duo underneath the words, “Support Gay Marriage.”
In the spring, a gay rights activist placed the order to Ashers Baking Company for an event marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. But the bakery declined, saying the message was “at odds” with its owners’ Christian beliefs.
Now, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland says the bakery must pay a fine for violating the country’s anti-discrimination laws, or go to court.
“It feels like a David and Goliath battle,” Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers Baking Company, told Sky News. “We’re continuing to hold to the stand that we took originally because we believe it’s biblical, we believe it’s what God would want us to do, and we also think that if we do cave in to the Equality Commission at this point it’ll put pressure on other citizens who are defending their view of traditional marriage.”
The case mirrors one in Colorado, where a baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That bakery owner ended up losing in court, having violated the state’s non-discrimination law. But the case became a flashpoint in the debate over whether rapidly expanding civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans would infringe on individuals’ religious freedom.
Ireland is not among the 17 countries that have legalized marriage equality. But voters will have the chance to change that next year when they weigh a referendum expanding civil marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. Sixty-seven percent said they would vote in favor of the measure, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.
As for Bert and Ernie, well, they’re no strangers to mixed reactions about their relationship. In 2011, the Sesame Street Workshop shot down a petition calling for the two to get married. saying in a statement that “they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.” Two years later, The New Yorker featured an illustration of Bert and Ernie cuddling on the sofa to mark the landmark Supreme Court case overturning a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA,) which prevented federal recognition of same-sex nuptials. That cover also sparked a backlash.
Bert and Ernie — yes, Sesame Street 's Muppets — have been thrust yet again into the gay marriage debate.
This time, for its July 8 and 15 issue, The New Yorker decided to use an illustration of Bert and Ernie for their coverage of the Supreme Court's decisions on two landmark gay marriage cases. The illustration shows Bert and Ernie cuddling on a couch while watching what seems to be TV news coverage of the court's decisions:
The New Yorker 's July 8 and 15th cover. The New Yorkerhide caption
toggle caption The New Yorker
The New Yorker 's July 8 and 15th cover.
The illustrator called next week's cover "Moment of Joy."
"It's amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime," the New Yorker quotes Jack Hunter as saying. "This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate."
As you can imagine, the cover already has people talking. The Daily Beast's headline. " 'New Yorker' Outs Bert and Ernie."
Jordan Weissmann, of The Atlantic. tweeted. "Fact error by the @NewYorker. Bert and Ernie could not have watched the court ruling on TV."
Of course, as we told you back in 2011. Sesame Workshop says the two male Muppets who share a house and a bedroom are just friends.
"Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation," the workshop said.
For its upcoming cover story "Moment of Joy," The New Yorker released the cover art early Friday morning: an image of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. snuggling on a couch and watching what appears to be the Supreme Court on television. This comes just days after the Supreme Court's overturning of DOMA on a 5-4 vote.
Artist Jack Hunter originally submitted his work to Blown Covers, a Tumblr full of "New Yorker covers you were never meant to see." The website is currently down, but here's the Way Back Machine link.
There's long been speculation about the nature of the friendship between Bert and Ernie. Whether the artist is suggesting a romantic relationship — or just using iconic children's characters to make a statement — is still unclear.
Twitter exploded with a variety of positive and negative responses after the cover art was released:
The upcoming cover of the @NewYorker is adorable "Bert & Ernies moment of joy" http://t.co/9K679m6w6c
The Bert and Ernie New Yorker cover is fantastic. Definitely a fan.
Well done, The New Yorker.
My heart goes out to those distressed by the Bert & Ernie New Yorker cover. And then comes back, laughing hysterically.
— paul bassett davies (@thewritertype) June 28, 2013And then the negative
So disappointed in the @NewYorker for that cover photo. Children's cartoons were and never have been about sexuality, be it gay or straight.
Fuck that New Yorker cover, basically.
Does it make me a homophobe that I am pissed about the "gay marriage" New Yorker cover with Bert & Ernie?
What did you think of the cover? Let us know in the comments section.
Photo courtesy of The New YorkerWhat's New What's Rising What's Hot
By Amber James EnStars on Jun 28, 2013 10:20 AM EDT
In celebration of the Supreme Court's gay marriage rulings this week, The New Yorker decided to use a photo that suggests a romantic relationship between Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie.
In the magazine's upcoming cover, titled Bert and Ernie's Moment Of Joy. shows the two Sesame Street characters snuggling together on the couch as they watch the landmark Supreme Court rulings on television.
The sexual orientation of the puppets has long been a subject of debate and fodder for comedians. Sesame Street Workshop in 2011 even clarified that the two "do not have a sexual orientation."
The cover image was submitted unsolicited by Jack Hunter, an independent artist, to Tumblr.
"It's amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime," said Jack Hunter, the artist behind next week's cover.
Hunter, who originally submitted his image, unsolicited, to a Tumblr, continued, "This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate."
On June 26, DOMA declared unconstitutional by SCOTUS in a 5-4 ruling.
The court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act "is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the 5th amendment."
The SCOTUSblog tweeted, "The federal government cannot disparage marriages recognized by the states, says the Court."
Courtesy of The New YorkerShould the ‘Sesame Street’ stars be used as poster-children for same-sex marriage? The debate begins!
For as long as Bert and Ernie have shared a one-bedroom apartment on Sesame Street, the public has speculated about the pair’s relationship, with many assuming the felt-skinned ‘friends’ are actually something more. The New Yorker ‘s latest cover — which features the Muppet-y men cuddling on their couch, watching a news report about the Supreme Court overturning the Defense of Marriage Act — is bringing new attention to the are-they-or-aren’t-they debate. And, naturally, the controversial cover is being met with mixed reviews.
Jack Hunter. who illustrated the controversial cover, posted a statement on The New Yorker ‘s official website.
“It’s amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime,” he said. “This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate.”Sesame Street Workshop Responds To Ernie & Bert Gay Rumors
Despite what the public thinks — and I’ll admit, the evidence is damning — Sesame Street Workshop posted an official statement on its Facebook page in Aug. 2011, clarifying that Bert and Ernie are just friends:
Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.
Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
Well, there you have it. Just friends. Sorry, New Yorker !
HollywoodLifers. what’s YOUR response to the Ernie-Bert cover? Did The New Yorker go too far, or did it raise an important point? Cast your vote below, then drop a comment with more of your thoughts.
The New Yorker ➚
Sesame Street ‘s Facebook ➚
The cover of next week’s New Yorker. drawn by Jack Hunter and titled “Moment of Joy,” celebrates the fall of DOMA by showing Sesame Street favorites Bert and Ernie snuggled on the sofa of their sparsely appointed living room. As they learn the news of the Supreme Court’s decision on a black-and-white television, Bert drapes his arm lovingly around Ernie, while Ernie rests his head on Bert’s shoulder.*
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate ’s LGBTQ section.
It’s a cute image. Everyone loves Bert and Ernie. But it’s a terrible way to commemorate a major civil-rights victory for gay and lesbian couples.
You see, Bert and Ernie aren’t lovers. Back in 2007, the president of the Children’s Television Workshop said that they “do not exist beneath the waist .” Then, two years ago, the Children’s Television Workshop declared :
Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
That’s not the only lesson Bert and Ernie have to impart. You see, straight America, there’s a difference between same-sex friends and gay lovers. Does America contain households in which lovers pass themselves off as best pals? No doubt. And as prejudice against gays and lesbians fades, more of these ambiguously gay couples will declare themselves. But that doesn’t mean that every pair of cohabiting friends is madly making out on a nightly basis.
Bert and Ernie clearly love each other. But does Ernie suck Bert’s cock? I don't think so.
(All that said, whoever goes to Pride this weekend dressed as Bert and Ernie is going to gay heaven.)
* Correction, June 28: This post originally attributed Bert’s pose in the cover to Ernie, and vice versa.
The New Yorker celebrated the Supreme Court's historic rulings on gay marriage with one of its most awesome covers of all time. It marked the moment by featuring what many people consider to be one of the most famous gay couples in pop culture: Bert and Ernie.
In the magazine's cover. titled "Bert and Ernie's Moment Of Joy," the two Sesame Street characters are shown snuggling together on the couch as they watch the landmark Supreme Court rulings on television.
The magazine wrote that the cover artist, named Jack Hunter, originally submitted the image, unsolicited, to a Tumblr. "It's amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime," he told the New Yorker's Culture Desk. "This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate."
Sesame Street has long denied that Bert and Ernie are anything more than friends, saying in a 2011 statement that the two "do not have a sexual orientation." Even so, now that the pair have been celebrated as the ultimate gay duo, wouldn't it be time to bring them a little closer together?Also on HuffPost: Controversial Magazine Covers
New Yorker Cover Shows Bert and Ernie Celebrating SCOTUS Gay Marriage Rulings
The New Yorker magazine has revealed the controversial cover of its upcoming issue on two groundbreaking rulings favoring same-sex marriage made by the Supreme Court this week. The cover image is controversial because it portrays an intimate moment between popular "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie, who have been dogged for years with suggestions that the two male puppets were much more than just roommates and buddies.
In a post on its website Friday, The New Yorker shared the July 8 & 15, 2013, cover image with a headline reading "Cover Story: Bert and Ernie's 'Moment of Joy." The venerable NYC publication explained that the unsolicited artwork was submitted to a Tumblr account by Jack Hunter.
"It's amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime," The New Yorker quoted Hunter as saying. "This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate."
Tim Wildmon, president of the conservative American Family Association, wholeheartedly disagrees.
"It is beneath contempt for a magazine of The New Yorker's stature to use Bert and Ernie, characters from a children's program, to celebrate behavior which is immoral, unnatural and unhealthy," Wildmon said in a statement emailed Friday to The Christian Post.
Wildmon called Hunter "dead wrong" for saying the Supreme Court marriage rulings "great for our kids" and "a moment we can all celebrate."
"This is a tragic day for kids who will wind up in same-sex households," added the AFA president, who went on to reference a controversial and highly-criticized study by Mark Regnerus. an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, that looked at the lives of adults raised by gay and lesbian parents.
Wildmon added, "The Bible has had it right from the beginning: marriage is between a man and a woman, and it's the optimal nurturing environment for children. The New Yorker magazine ought to be ashamed of itself."
Among the handful of comments in response to The New Yorker's "Moment of Joy" cover was a suggestion that the publication made an "inappropriate" decision by choosing to use Hunter's Bert and Ernie image.
"Why is this inappropriate? Because CTW (the Children's Television Workshop) has taken the effort to comment that Bert and Ernie, although quite eloquent, are muppets. They have no gender and are thus not gay," the commenter wrote. "So much for an intellectual approach from The New Yorker."
The comment was rebuffed, however, by another reader who suggested that one simply had to consider the popular puppets' "gender" to get the point.
Another visitor to The New Yorker's website, put off by the "troll fest" the image was attracting in the comments section, remarked. "The sexuality of Bert and Ernie has been a punchline for decades, in case you haven't been paying attention, and what the cover does, in a masterful way, is reference that in the context of a historic ruling by the Supreme Court. End of story. Everything else is bluster and bombast."
In 2011, when an online petition called for Bert and Ernie to get married to help teach children about "the tolerance of those that are different," Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization that produces "Sesame Street," attempted to set the record straight on the puppet's sexuality.
"Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves," Sesame Workshop said at the time in a statement shared with The Christian Post. "Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."
The Christian Post's request to the Sesame Workshop for a comment on The New Yorker cover image was not met by press time. The popular children's television program has been broadcast for more than 40 years.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court justices voted 5-4 twice in two cases touching on the institution of marriage, with the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 amendment directly affected.
With regard to the Defense of Marriage Act (United States v. Windsor), signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, the justices found it unconstitutional for marriage to be defined in heterosexual terms when dealing with federal laws and programs. California's Proposition 8 voter-approved amendment defining marriage in traditional terms was suspended after a 2010 ruling by a lower court found the law unconstitutional. The Supreme Court's refusal this week to rule on a challenge to the case (Hollingsworth v. Perry) effectively leaves the lower court's decision in place, and leaves room for California to resume performing same-sex marriages.