Tens of thousands of supporters have signed a petition to remove the reality series, “19 Kids & Counting,” from the TLC network for what some viewers are calling an anti-gay stance taken by the show’s featured couple, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.
The episodes star the couple and their 19 children, and take place in Tontitown, Arkansas. An online petition at Change.org is urging TLC to stop airing the program in the wake of a message the couple posted to their Facebook page last week.
“God designed marriage to be a loving, dynamic relationship between a husband and wife for a lifetime. God loves marriage and it is supposed to be full of love, joy, fun and romance. Marriage is where romance belongs,” they posted, along with an image of themselves kissing.
The creators of the petition claim the Duggars “have been using their fame to promote discrimination, hate, and fear-mongering against gays and transgendered people.” The request had accumulated more than 88,000 signatures by early Thursday afternoon.
The couple’s oldest child, Josh, serves as the executive director of the action arm for the Family Research Center, which, according to its website, aims to educate the public about “traditional American values.” The branch of the group supports “preference in public policies for heterosexual marriage and the traditional family.”
The Duggars debuted on TV in 2008 when the show was entitled “17 Kids & Counting,” a reflection of their progeny at the time. Their current show is in its ninth season.
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday began hearing arguments against a judge’s decision from earlier this year to strike down the state’s laws banning gay marriage. In 2004, residents of the Natural State approved a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. When the judge removed the state ban in May, more than 500 gay and lesbian couples obtained their marriage licenses before a stay was issued.
Last year, A&E suspended “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson from the network following his rant comparing homosexuality to bestiality and his musings on African-American life in the South. The reality TV series follows a Louisiana family that became wealthy by selling products for duck hunters. Robertson’s relatives defended him, saying his beliefs were grounded in teachings of the Bible. The network ultimately lifted Robertson’s suspension, and he returned to the show during filming earlier this spring.