‘The New Normal’ sparks local controversy

After local NBC-affiliate KSL officials announced the station would not carry The New Normal in its fall lineup, protests were planned and online petitions went viral. The actors behind the show spoke out against the censorship and called the decision homophobic.

“Shame on u @kslcom,” read the first in a series of angry tweets from actress Ellen Barkin, who plays the conservative mother of a woman carrying a baby for two gay men. “So L&O SVU (rape & child murder) is OK? But loving gay couple having a baby is inappropriate?”

Barkin started an online Twitter war with the hashtag #KSLBigots. She urged protesters in Utah to “please clog up @ksl5tv feed 4 their blatantly [homophobic] decision 2 not air the show.”

A local protest outside the KSL offices was planned and a Facebook event was created. But just hours before the protest could take place, organizer Mark Lawrence received a phone call from Utah Pride Center Executive Director Valarie Larabee asking him to cancel the gathering.

Instead, officials from the Pride Center, Equality Utah and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation met with Jeff Simpson, CEO of Bonneville International, the parent company of KSL. The meeting was deemed an enormous success because KSL issued a statement emphasizing the importance of supporting “LGBT families.”

“For the first time in KSL history, we will be spoken about as LGBT families, not nontraditional families, not alternative families – but LGBT families. Truly – the sitcom is not even the core issue, as it will be picked up by another affiliate in Utah – the core success is working in partnership with GLAAD, the Utah Pride Center, Bonneville Communications and KSL to raise awareness and visibility of our community,” said Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken in a press release.

The KSL statement countered with a strong appraisal of the gathering: “We care about and value all members of our community, including LGBT people and their families, and are grateful when there can be the type of cordial and respectful dialogue we have had today.”

Yet, the show will not be aired on KSL – CW30, however, has picked it up for Saturday night airings.

The New Normal hits religious conservatives below the belt, because the new call against gay rights isn’t for protecting against gay immorality, but a so-called race to protect children, said QSaltLake columnist and queer-rights activist Bob Henline. Rather than simply quote Bible verses condemning gay sex, religious conservatives have changed the message saying children should only be raised in homes with heterosexual parents.

“KSL has every right to chose not to air the show. That is absolutely their prerogative, but let’s not pretend that it was because of anything other than the fact that the show shows two gay parents in a positive light,” Henline said. “There are much more violent and sexual shows on the KSL daily programming than this.”

“The meeting resulted in a statement from KSL saying LGBT families should be respected. But they’re still marginalizing a community. Whether we call them LGBT families or alternative families, it’s still marginalization and it’s still wrong,” he said.

KSL has declined to air the often rowdy Saturday Night Live and last year it chose not to show The Playboy Club. However, it did carry all eight seasons of Will & Grace.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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