LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - It’s official: Sesame Street’s Muppet couple Bert and Ernie are not gay.
But - according to Sesame Workshop, the organization behind the popular U.S. television program - it’s also official that they’re not straight.
Bert and Ernie are simply “best friends”.
The final ruling from Sesame Workshop - in an attempt to draw a line under a debate that has rumbled on since the pair first appeared on television in 1969 - is that puppets “do not have a sexual orientation”.
“They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” Sesame Workshop said on Twitter on Tuesday.
“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.”
Sesame Workshop issued the statement in response to former show writer Mark Saltzman’s claim last week that he wrote the pair’s scenes as if they were a “loving couple”.
Bert and Ernie have long been gay icons, taking center stage in a legal dispute in Northern Ireland over a bakery’s refusal to make a cake iced with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” and a picture of the orange and yellow characters.
Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org