UPDATE: TLC released a statement to Us Weekly following the news of the petition. "TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment," a representative for the network said. "The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made, and speak only for themselves."
The original story continues below.
TLC's latest reality program hasn't even aired yet, but it's already causing some serious controversy.
The network behind classics like 90 Day Fiance, Sex Sent Me to the ER, I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant, My Strange Addiction, and, of course, the Gosselin and Duggar phenomenons, announced plans last month for a special called My Husband's Not Gay, scheduled to debut on Sunday, Jan. 11.
My Husband's Not Gay follows four Mormon men of questionable sexuality who live in Salt Lake City, Utah. The subjects of the show say they are attracted to men but aren't gay and have chosen lives with female partners. Three of the four are married to women and the fourth is dating women.
This archaic premise inspired a popular petition on Change.org and outcry from gay rights groups.
A gay Christian man named Josh Sanders created a petition called "Cancel your upcoming TV show, 'My Husband's Not Gay,'" addressed at TLC. Working toward a goal of 150,000 supporters, as of Tuesday morning, the call to action had reached 76,911 signatures.
"This January, TLC will debut 'My Husband’s Not Gay,' a TV show that promotes the false and dangerous idea that gay people can and should choose to be straight in order to be part of their faith communities," Sanders writes on Change.org. "As a gay Christian man who’s seen first hand how this message can harm people, I am calling on TLC to cancel 'My Husband’s Not Gay' and to stop telling America that LGBT people should lie to themselves and to their faith communities about who they are and who they love."
In the first preview for the upcoming show, the wives of the men say that they are "defensive" when people call their husbands gay, and one of the stars adds of his marriage to a woman, "There is no marriage that is perfect — ours isn't — but, with our faith in God, we believe we can overcome anything." Another put it simply, "I'm attracted to my wife, for sure, and I'm definitely attracted to men too."
Sanders saw parallels between the scope of the show and the highly controversial conversion therapy often used in religious communities to attempt to alter sexuality.
"As a devout Christian, I understand the important role faith plays in the lives of the show’s main characters," he wrote. "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' — a practice that’s been denounced as ineffective and dangerous by nearly every major medical authority. In the end, the only thing that this so-called 'therapy' did was stoke a growing despair that maybe my life wasn't worth living."
Advocate group GLAAD expressed a similar sentiment in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Monday, Jan. 5.
"This show is downright irresponsible," GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told THR. "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."
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