Entertainment TV Arthur same-sex marriage episode banned in Alabama
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Arthur same-sex marriage episode banned in Alabama

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Characters celebrate the wedding of Mr Ratburn in the premiere episode of Arthur's 22nd season. Photo: PBS
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Long-running children’s cartoon Arthur has broken new ground by featuring its first same-sex marriage in the premiere of its 22nd season – but audiences in the US state of Alabama were none the wiser.

Alabama Public Television, which distributes the show across the state, refused to air the episode that celebrated the wedding of the titular aardvark’s teacher.

The premiere, titled Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone, revealed the teacher’s nuptials to another man – an aardvark – in front of his jubilant students.

APT programming director Mike McKenzie said airing the wedding would have violated parents’ trust.

Mr McKenzie also suggested many would find it inappropriate “either because their children are too young, or because of their beliefs”.

“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,” Mr McKenzie said.

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Mr. Ratburn wedded his male partner during the premiere episode of Arthur’s 22nd season, attracting controversy in Alabama. Photo: PBS

However, social media commentators called out the broadcaster for censoring the matter-of-fact representation of same-sex marriage.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also condemned the Alabama broadcaster’s censorship decision, describing it as “homophobia, plain and simple”.

“TV worlds often reflect our actual world and today that includes LGBTQ parents and families,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said.

The popular children’s show has aired in the US and around the world since 1996, and has not shied away from tackling social issues in the past.

Spinoff series Postcards from Buster, which charts the journey of one of Arthur’s furry friends, courted backlash from conservative figures in 2005 for its portrayal of a family with lesbian mothers.

Alabama recently passed an anti-abortion law that was supported by 25 male lawmakers – banning terminations in virtually all cases, including rape or incest – which has since prompted protests across the US.

Same-sex marriage was instituted in Alabama in 2015, following the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision that transformed marriage law across the country.

However, eight of the state’s counties have avoided issuing licenses altogether to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

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