A television station in Alabama has refused to broadcast an episode of children’s cartoon show Arthur because it featured a gay wedding.
The episode Mr Ratburn and the Special Someone saw Arthur’s teacher – a cartoon rat – come out as gay and marry Patrick the aardvark.
The season 22 episode aired nationally, but Alabama Public Television (APT) decided to show a re-run instead.
APT director of programming Mike McKenzie defended the decision, saying children should be able to watch shows on the station without supervision.
He told AL.com in a statement: “Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programmes that entertain, educate and inspire.”
“More importantly – although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards – parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision.
“We also know that children who are younger than the ‘target’ audience for Arthur also watch the programme.”
The station previously pulled an episode of Arthur in 2005 because it featured a character who had two mothers.
PBS, which makes the Arthur series, told People magazine that its programmes aimed to reflect the “diverse communities” of children who watch the show and “represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS KIDS every day”.
Substitute teacher Misty Souder, from McCalla, Alabama, said she was disappointed by the decision and would use it to teach her nine-year-old daughter about standing up for minority groups.
A petition by website One Million Mums calling for the episode to be pulled said it had received over 18,000 signatures.
However another petition called ‘Change the Alabama State Flag to Mr Ratburn’s Wedding’ was also set up in response.
The petition’s organisers wrote: “Instead of clenching our yellow-sweater-cuffed fists in silent fury, let’s band together and solve this problem by replacing the Alabama state flag with a glorious image of Mr Ratburn’s gay wedding, so that it may shine down on the Alabama statehouse forever as a reminder to look prejudice in the eye and say ‘hey what a wonderful kind of day.'”
The state of Alabama has recently made headlines for passing a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest.