LOS ANGELES Bert and Ernie may be best friends, but that doesn't mean the "Sesame Street" pals are gay. And whatever the puppets may or may not be, one thing is certain, they won't be getting married, producers of the long-running kids TV show made clear on Thursday.
The educational workshop behind the 40 year-old TV series dismissed the idea of a made-for-TV, same-sex puppet wedding in response to an online campaign and petition to have the two "Sesame Street" characters get married as a way to beat homophobia and encourage tolerance of gay people.
In recent days, almost 9,000 people have signed a petition encouraging the wedding at www.change.org and/or become friends of a special "Bert and Ernie Get Married" Facebook page, sparking a lively debate on Twitter and other social media.
Bert, who is fascinated by pigeons and gets easily upset, and oval-headed, free spirit Ernie, have lived together at 123 Sesame Street since 1969. They share a bedroom, but sleep in single beds. Sesame Workshop noted on Thursday that as puppets, Bert and Ernie don't have sexual preferences.
"Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.
"Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics, they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation," Sesame Workshop said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page.
The change.org petition had argued that their marriage would help to put an end to bullying and suicides of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual young people.
"We are not asking that 'Sesame Street' do anything crude or disrespectful by allowing Bert & Ernie to marry. It can be done in a tasteful way," the petition read.
"Sesame Street" is seen in either the U.S. or local TV versions in more than 140 nations and has won multiple awards for its educational content for pre-schoolers.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)