Bert & Ernie are not gay, Sesame Street says in statement

Bert and Ernie are not gay.

That is, according to "Sesame Street," which released an official statement on the matter on Thursday responding to an online campaign calling for the pair to be married.

"Bert and Ernie are best friends," the statement posted on Sesame Street's Facebook page reads. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves."

The statement continues: "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 assertion was questioned by a number of commenters on Sesame Street's Facebook wall.

"Muppets do not have sexual orientation?" Sharkey Violet wrote. "So all along Miss Piggy was after Kermit for his frog legs for supper?"

"It just seems to me that you can't say puppets don't have a sexual orientation when there have been plenty of cases of hetero courtship on Sesame Street over the years," Scott Hanson wrote. "The Count has had several girlfriends, to name just one example."

"I don't agree with the Bert marrying Ernie part of the petition," Roy Hans added. "But I do think it would be good to have an LGBT character on Sesame Street. In South Africa they added an HIV-positive character to the [program] to combat ignorance and exclusion."

SpongeBob could not be reached for comment.

One online petition, launched this week, had gathered more than 5,400 signatures supporting a Bert and Ernie marriage.

But some commenters said the campaign was bad idea. "I'm 100% committed to equality for all," Daniel De Simone wrote. "But this was a silly, trivial campaign that put Sesame Street in an extraordinarily unfair dilemma. Thanks for defusing in a way that doesn't hurt anyone, especially Sesame Street."