TLC hit pay dirt this morning when GLAAD and other organizations began to savage My Husband’s Not Gay, its new TV special/backdoor pilot, and touted a petition to get the network to pull the plug, greatly increasing viewer awareness of the program five days before its debut.

lisademoraescolumn__140603223319“This show is downright irresponsible,” scolded GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to. By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm’s way.”

Countered the network: “TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment. The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made and speak only for themselves.” TLC also has telecast programs that feature polygamists, child beauty-pageant participants, hoarders, people with unusual addictions, etc. etc.

GLAAD’s statement coincides with Change.org reaching out to media this morning to alert them to a petition on its site, launched December 29, that has topped 75,000 signatures. The petition urges TLC to cancel the special “which promotes the false message that gay people can and should choose to be straight in order to be part of their faith communities,” wrote petition creator Josh Sanders, who describes himself as a “devout Christian” who grew up in a “conservative community” where being gay was considered “an abomination” and where he was subjected to “six months of so-called ‘reparative therapy,’ a discredited and dangerous practice that falsely claims to turn gay people straight.”

Like most TLC one-off “specials,” My Husband’s Not Gay — featuring couples Curtis and Tera, Jeff and Tlc_logo_discovery (1)Tanya, Pret and Megan, and 35-year-old bachelor Tom — is presumed to be a backdoor pilot for a series if it’s a ratings success, which this morning’s kerfuffle is sure to goose. In the trailer, the men are seen saying things such as, “I’m attracted to my wife — and I’m attracted to men too,” and, “I like to say I’ve chosen an alternative to an alternative lifestyle,” and “I’m interested in men, I’m just not interested in men.”

Sanders chastises TLC for “presenting their lives as entertainment” and suggesting “you can fight your sexual orientation by marrying someone of the opposite sex,” which “sends a dangerous message to viewers.” The men featured in this show, he said in his petition, “deserve to be shown compassion and acceptance.”

When TLC announced the special, on December 22, it did so with a headline that read: “New TLC Special … Explores Unconventional Mormon Marriages”:

“In Salt Lake City, UT, there are some Mormons who live their lives… a little differently. There are some men who are happily married and attracted to their wives, but they are also attracted to other men. They refer to it as Same Sex Attraction… not gay, SSA. In the new TLC special…these couples share the challenges they face every day and explain why they have decided to live the way they do, and explore how these wives endure this unusual facet in their relationships as they strive to make their marriages work.”

My Husband’s Not Gay already had gotten one round of coverage in the press when the network announced it — but that was back in late December, when viewers are distracted trying to figure out how they’re going to endure holiday shopping trips, the nightmare of holiday travel, four days with their in-laws, whether The Interview would be released, etc. Today’s development was a gift for TLC, though: Most media covered the show like a caterpillar they’d discovered in their salad. And yet, if today plays out as did coverage of TLC’s announcement in December, you might see several media outlets gussy-up their web posts about the special with slide shows of celebrities “who’ve faced gay rumors” — a statement that would seem to suggest “gay” is a pretty bad thing to be rumored to be. Other media outlets might include on their page about the TLC show paid links to other sites featuring such informative pieces/click bait as Celebs You Didn’t Know Were Bisexual that take readers to a story/photo gallery about Celebrity Playground – See Who Swings Both Ways. “It may not be our business,” the post might say, “but we just can’t help ourselves!”