Actor, filmmaker, and writer Neal Bledsoe has a lot of industry work under his belt. That includes two films for Great American Family (GAF), a cable television network dedicated to family-oriented programs, including numerous Christmas films. However, Bledsoe has announced his plans to split from the network after his peer Candace Cameron Bure commented on the network’s dedication to “traditional marriage,” which prompted her to leave Hallmark.
On April 19, 2022, Bure was hired as chief content officer for GAC Media, which acquired the network in 2021. Bure split from Hallmark, where she’d been since 2008. She explained that GAF “will keep traditional marriage at the core,” which some interpreted as defining LGBTQ marriages as “other.” In light of this move, Bledsoe says he cannot stay with the network.
Neal Bledsoe announces his departure from GAF after the Candace Cameron Bure “traditional marriage” controversy
In 2021, Bledsoe starred in the GAF films The Winter Palace and this year he can be found in Christmas at the Drive-In. But that’s the end of that, according to Bledsoe in a statement to Variety. “I hope GAF will change,” said Bledsoe. “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 says feels a deep connection to and gratitude towards the LGBTQ 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,” he explained.
Both sides explain their reasoning
Bledsoe intends on repaying the debt whenever the need arises. He says, “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 believes “the recent comments made by leadership at Great American Family are hurtful, wrong, and reflect an ideology that prioritizes judgment over love.”
Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media, doubled down on the network’s intention of focusing on “traditional marriage,” while also adding, “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.'” Meanwhile, Bure asserts that the media warped what she said about the move from Hallmark, which has increasingly included LGBTQ couples in its holiday films. She counters by saying, “All of you who know me, know beyond question that I have great love and affection for all people. It absolutely breaks my heart that anyone would ever think I intentionally would want to offend and hurt anyone,” adding, “I am a devoted Christian. Which means that I believe that every human being bears the image of God. Because of that, I am called to love all people, and I do.”