Actor Neal Bledsoe cuts ties with Great American Family network after Candace Cameron Bure’s ‘traditional marriage’ comment

Actor Neal Bledsoe is ending his relationship with Great American Family.

The actor released a statement expressing how he can no longer work with the network following Candace Cameron Bure and CEO Bill Abbott’s comments about the network focusing on “traditional marriage” stories.

“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,” the actor — who appeared in the network’s 2021 film “The Winter Palace” and this year’s “Christmas at the Drive-In” — told Variety in a lengthy statement.

Coverage of the CBS Original Holiday Movie MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network.  Pictured: Neal Bledsoe as Nick.  (Bettina Strauss / CBS via Getty Images)
Coverage of the CBS Original Holiday Movie MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Neal Bledsoe as Nick. (Bettina Strauss / CBS via Getty Images)

“I cannot take comfort from, nor will I give refuge to, those who excuse exclusion and promote division in any way, shape, or form. 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,” Bledsoe said, adding that he 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.”

“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,” he continued. “To describe that love and the full human representation of the LGBTQIA+ community as a ‘trend’ is also both troubling and confusing.”

In a November interview with The Wall Street Journal. Bure spoke about her new role at the network and how she did not expect the network to include same-sex leads in its Christmas movies, saying, “Great American Family will keep traditional marriage at the core.”

Additionally, Abbott said in the same interview, “It’s certainly the year 2022, so we’re aware of the trends. There’s no whiteboard that says, ‘Yes, this’ or ‘No, we’ll never go here.’”

Bure and Abbott did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment.

Related: JoJo Siwa criticizes Candace Cameron Bure’s plans for ‘traditional marriage’ in Christmas movies

After leaving the Hallmark Channel, Bure joined GAF and serves as the chief creative officer for the network. The former “Full House” star’s comments sparked backlash from celebrities like JoJo Siwa and actor Hilarie Burton. GLAAD also released a statement regarding Bure’s comments and invited her to a conversation with Sarah Kate Ellis, its president and CEO.

Bure would go on to issue a lengthy response, saying, “It absolutely breaks my heart that anyone would ever think I intentionally would want to offend and hurt anyone,” according to People.

She added that it saddened her that the “media is often seeking to divide us,” before explaining that she has “long wanted to find a home for more faith-based programming.”

“I am grateful to be an integral part of a young and growing network,” the statement added. “I had also expressed in my interview, which was not included, that people of all ethnicities and identities have and will continue to contribute to the network in great ways both in front of and behind the camera, which I encourage and fully support. I’ve never been interested in proselytizing through my storytelling, but in celebrating God’s greatness in our lives through the stories I tell.”

Related: Candace Cameron Bure responds to backlash over ‘traditional marriage’ comments

Bledsoe added in his own statement that as an artist he wanted to be proud of the work he creates. “But, the thought that my work could be used to deliberately discriminate against anyone horrifies and infuriates me,” he stated. “I hope GAF will change, but until everyone can be represented in their films with pride, my choice is clear.”

Read Bledsoe's full statement, which he also shared on his Instagram story, below:

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.

You may have noticed that I have been unusually silent at a time when I should have been promoting a holiday film, a film with the express purpose of bringing everyone comfort in a time of great tumult and change, but I cannot continue with business as usual. I cannot take comfort from, nor will I give refuge to, those who excuse exclusion and promote division in any way, shape, or form. 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.

Freedoms of speech or religion, or even the freedom to express beliefs that I might vehemently disagree with, are not the issue here. 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?

As I thought about this statement, I reached out to a dear friend of mine for guidance, a man who grew up out and brown in the South, when it was even more dangerous to do so then than it is now. He reminded me of the courage of Elizabeth Taylor, who visited the lonely pariahs dying of AIDS in Reagan’s America when our society wanted nothing to do with them. Her compassion was neither cool, nor woke, nor a virtue signal, it was just the right thing to do, especially when much of our culture chose cruelty. Decades later, it galls me to think that some among us are still finding ways to justify a crueler world under the cloak of faith, tradition, or, even worse, audience share.

When we were discussing this, my friend wrote the following to me, which I share here with his permission, as his words speak to this more personally, eloquently, and truthfully than anything I could possibly say:

“The unchanging gift of those Christmas narratives is the belief in a happy ending. The most devastating mendacity — the one that snuffs out the light in us — is the belief that happiness is impossible with us in the picture. Worse yet: that we do not deserve happiness simply because of who we are. The animus is not simply to hate the sin; it’s to get the sinner to hate themselves so much that they capitulate to this corrosive narrative. The irony that a network with the word ‘family’ in its name chooses to punish the very people who understand the meaning of the word, in the most profound way, is not lost on me. The overwhelming data on the overlap of homelessness and the LGBTQIA+ community reflects the failures of American families in their most basic role: parents and caregivers have chosen a cruel narrative over lives that deserve love and support, for which they are responsible. And the only way we survive that abrogation of duty is to create our own families and our own version of what unconditional love looks like.”

As an artist, I yearn to be proud of the work I create. But, the thought that my work could be used to deliberately discriminate against anyone horrifies and infuriates me. 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. In that spirit, I will be making a donation to True Colors United, and if these words have any resonance with you, I hope you will join me.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com