Neal Bledsoe Steps Away From Great American Family: ‘My Support for the LGBTQIA+ Community Is Unconditional’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Neal Bledsoe is distancing himself from Great American Family. In an exclusive statement to Variety, the actor, who starred in 2021’s “The Winter Palace” and this year’s “Christmas at the Drive-In” for GAF, explained his choice to step away from the Bill Abbott-led network following the recent remarks made by both the CEO and Candace Cameron Bure, the chief creative officer.

“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,” he says, in part, below.

In a recent interview with WSJ, Bure said that Great American Family will not feature same-sex couples in their movies but instead focus on “traditional marriage.” Abbott added, “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.’”

Following backlash, Bure released a lengthy statement about her comments, blaming the media for the “divide.”

Below, Bledsoe explains his very personal stance on the topic and his hopes for change:

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.

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