(Photo: www.sesamestreet.org via The Christian Post)
The New Yorker magazine has revealed the controversial cover of its upcoming issue on two groundbreaking rulings favoring same-sex marriage made by the Supreme Court this week. The cover image is controversial because it portrays an intimate moment between popular "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie, who have been dogged for years with suggestions that the two male puppets were much more than just roommates and buddies.
In a post on its website Friday, The New Yorker shared the July 8 & 15, 2013, cover image with a headline reading "Cover Story: Bert and Ernie's 'Moment of Joy." The venerable NYC publication explained that the unsolicited artwork was submitted to a Tumblr account by Jack Hunter.
"It's amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime," The New Yorker quoted Hunter as saying. "This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate."
Tim Wildmon, president of the conservative American Family Association, wholeheartedly disagrees.
"It is beneath contempt for a magazine of The New Yorker's stature to use Bert and Ernie, characters from a children's program, to celebrate behavior which is immoral, unnatural and unhealthy," Wildmon said in a statement emailed Friday to The Christian Post.
Wildmon called Hunter "dead wrong" for saying the Supreme Court marriage rulings "great for our kids" and "a moment we can all celebrate."
"This is a tragic day for kids who will wind up in same-sex households," added the AFA president, who went on to reference a controversial and highly-criticized study by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, that looked at the lives of adults raised by gay and lesbian parents.
Wildmon added, "The Bible has had it right from the beginning: marriage is between a man and a woman, and it's the optimal nurturing environment for children. The New Yorker magazine ought to be ashamed of itself."
Among the handful of comments in response to The New Yorker's "Moment of Joy" cover was a suggestion that the publication made an "inappropriate" decision by choosing to use Hunter's Bert and Ernie image.
"Why is this inappropriate? Because CTW (the Children's Television Workshop) has taken the effort to comment that Bert and Ernie, although quite eloquent, are muppets. They have no gender and are thus not gay," the commenter wrote. "So much for an intellectual approach from The New Yorker."
The comment was rebuffed, however, by another reader who suggested that one simply had to consider the popular puppets' "gender" to get the point.
Another visitor to The New Yorker's website, put off by the "troll fest" the image was attracting in the comments section, remarked, "The sexuality of Bert and Ernie has been a punchline for decades, in case you haven't been paying attention, and what the cover does, in a masterful way, is reference that in the context of a historic ruling by the Supreme Court. End of story. Everything else is bluster and bombast."
In 2011, when an online petition called for Bert and Ernie to get married to help teach children about "the tolerance of those that are different," Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization that produces "Sesame Street," attempted to set the record straight on the puppet's sexuality.
"Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves," Sesame Workshop said at the time in a statement shared with The Christian Post. "Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."
The Christian Post's request to the Sesame Workshop for a comment on The New Yorker cover image was not met by press time. The popular children's television program has been broadcast for more than 40 years.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court justices voted 5-4 twice in two cases touching on the institution of marriage, with the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 amendment directly affected.
With regard to the Defense of Marriage Act (United States v. Windsor), signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, the justices found it unconstitutional for marriage to be defined in heterosexual terms when dealing with federal laws and programs. California's Proposition 8 voter-approved amendment defining marriage in traditional terms was suspended after a 2010 ruling by a lower court found the law unconstitutional. The Supreme Court's refusal this week to rule on a challenge to the case (Hollingsworth v. Perry) effectively leaves the lower court's decision in place, and leaves room for California to resume performing same-sex marriages.