Following homophobic remarks made by Candace Cameron Bure and network executive Bill Abbott, actor Neal Bledsoe publicly announced he would cut ties with the Great American Family network.
Back in November, the former Full House star and outspoken Evangelical Christian caused a stir when she told the Wall Street Journal magazine her new Great American Family Network, on which she serves as the chief creative officer, would not feature any films centered around same-sex couples and would "keep traditional marriage at the core."
As was to be expected, Bure's remarks did not sit well in the entertainment community, with So You Think You Can Dance judge Jojo Siwa, and even Bure's former on-screen sister Jodie Sweetin calling her out on social media.
This led Bure to dive into damage control mode, leading her to issue a statement where she declared she had "great love for all people", and the media was attempting to "divide us" by sharing statements she made in an interview she gave.
Featuring no specific mention of the LGBTQ+ community, her statement was not the apology people were looking for.
Among those unconvinced by Bure's statement was fellow Great American Family star Neal Bledsoe.
Like Bure, Bledsoe had previously appeared in several films for the Hallmark Channel but joined Bure when she moved to the Great American Family Network, alongside former Crown Heart Media CEO Bill Abbott and his frequent Hallmark costar Danica McKellar.
Bledsoe and McKellar had already filmed two movies for the network, The Winter Palace and the current Christmas at the Drive-in.
However, as he made clear in a statement printed by Variety, Bledsoe has no intention of making any more films for the network for the foreseeable future.
Bledsoe began his statement by addressing how his relationship with the LGBTQ+ community was essential to him as a person, as it helped him with his own struggles with societal expectations of masculinity.
"My life wouldn’t be where it is today without the love, support, and guidance of the LGBTQIA+ community."
"From my mentors in college, to the myriad of agents and managers, writers and directors, teachers and colleagues, and, of course, my dear friends and family, who have all touched my life, I owe them a great debt."
"As someone who struggled as a young man with our society’s extremely narrow definition of masculinity, it was their community that provided me with refuge and a guiding light when my life felt lost."
"And now, if I cannot stand up for that community in their time of need, my debt to them means nothing."
"So, I want to be very clear: my support for the LGBTQIA+ community is unconditional—nothing is worth my silence or their ability to live and love freely in a world that we are lucky enough to share with them."
Bledsoe also explained how in protest of Bure's remarks, he chose not to promote his current GAF film, Christmas At The Drive-In, and mentioned how his own Christian beliefs also drove his decision to end his relationship with the network.
"Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and these are mine: the recent comments made by leadership at Great American Family are hurtful, wrong, and reflect an ideology that prioritizes judgment over love."
"I was raised as a Christian, and believe in the essential message of love and forgiveness."
"That said, I could never forgive myself for continuing my relationship with a network that actively chooses to exclude the LGBTQIA+ community."
Bledsoe would become less subtle toward Bure and Abbott, the latter having referred to same-sex couples as a "trend" when asked if the network would include any same-sex couples in their films.
"This is about someone in an executive position speaking about deliberate exclusion on behalf of an entire network."
"This is why the phrase 'traditional marriage' is as odious as it is baffling."
"Not simply wrong in its morality, it’s also a moot point, when you consider that most romantic movies don’t feature married couples at all, nor even weddings, but simply people meeting and falling in love."
"To describe that love and the full human representation of the LGBTQIA+ community as a 'trend' is also both troubling and confusing."
"When institutions such as the Mormon Church support marriage equality, and join the vast majority of Americans who already believe in the fundamental right to love who and how we please—and when that right is about to be codified into the law of the land—one has to ask not what are the trends, but whether any organization that stands against such love would be trending toward the dustbin of history?"
Bledsoe went on to share how a friend reminded him of the late Elizabeth Taylor, who stood up against Ronald Regan during the AIDS crisis by visiting dying patients, not for fame or glory, but because it was "the right thing to do."
Bledsoe concluded his statement by making it clear his departure from GAF isn't definitive, but he will only consider ever working with them again if he notices a considerable change in their practices.
"I hope GAF will change, but until everyone can be represented in their films with pride, my choice is clear."
"I look forward to working with creators who put no limits on the stories we tell and follow through on their message of values with open arms."
Bledsoe's statement received a standing ovation on Twitter, both from fans and those unfamiliar with his work, with many expressing their hope other GAF stars might follow suit or Bledsoe might become a regular at Hallmark again.
This is what you do and say when you actually believe in something Saying no to future work not easy for working a… https://t.co/lh0FXT2jXF— Ho! Ho! Holiday Viewing! (@Ho! Ho! Holiday Viewing!) 1670263989
Good to see so many people standing up to bigots. Who does @candacecbure think she is? These people who pretend to… https://t.co/5lRAY0cxNR— KnowYourObama (@KnowYourObama) 1670286399
Weird. I never knew who #NealBledsoe was until the last few weeks after re-watching Ugly Betty, and I looked him up… https://t.co/h65mJuLl2C— Mel C (@Mel C) 1670350546
But Neal Bledsoe’s statement is a helluva response to the homophobia at GAF. Check out him noting that “most romant… https://t.co/WJicE6Bs09— Kevin D. Grüssing (Pronounced Grew-sing) (@Kevin D. Grüssing (Pronounced Grew-sing)) 1670262657
Thank you @becauseibledsoe hope more speak out. Silence is compliance at this point https://t.co/mDQxZlGVTu— Hallmark Heartbeats podcast (@Hallmark Heartbeats podcast) 1670267910
This is how it’s done 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻Very impressive and powerful statement @becauseibledsoe // Neal Bledsoe Leaves Great… https://t.co/eWRd2oQPFH— ninergrl6 ☮️ (@ninergrl6 ☮️) 1670270657
Let the defections begin! Kudos to Neal, and his statement is very moving. https://t.co/uqxUHPMSOX— Snicks (@Snicks) 1670267475
Bledsoe's Christmas at the Drive-In co-star McKellar, who currently has a four-picture deal with GAF, has so far remained tight-lipped surrounding his departure.
McKellar came under some scrutiny when she supported Bure's response to the backlash but later took to Instagram to clarify while she is a "new Christian", she supported "all forms of healthy love between adults".
Unlike Bure, she explicitly championed the LGBTQ+ community by sharing her happiness at attending the same-sex wedding of one of her good friends.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, Abbot and Bure both departed Hallmark to form GAF just as the network was slowly beginning to include same-sex couples in their films.
2020's The Christmas House was the first Hallmark movie to include a same-sex couple, while this year's Christmas Sitter will be their first film to feature a central romance between two men.