If you haven’t seen the latest Hilton ad in Travel + Leisure, let us fill you in on the controversy. The ad features a photo of two gay men in bed together. Definitely not the most scandalous ad we’ve seen, yet it has still received criticism from the American Family Association (AFA). Now the magazine’s editor, Nathan Lump, has responded.
First, perhaps we should provide some context. The AFA is a fundamentalist “Christian values” non-profit organization headquartered in Mississippi that lobbies for and against various “moral issues that impact the family.” In recent history, the AFA has been involved in public policy debates over same-sex marriage as well as other legislative initiatives. It owns more than 200 radio stations across the U.S. and has a budget that exceeds $16 million. Oh yeah, it’s also listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now back to the advertisement…
After the AFA called the photo “unnatural and offensive”, an AFA petition against the ad has garnered 50,000 signatures. The AFA petition says: “I am offended by your ad in the June issue of Travel and Leisure magazine, featuring two men in bed together. If Hilton is going to advertise in mainstream media, at the very least, it should promote with images that reflect a family friendly atmosphere.”
Lump, who is gay, responded: “I write about Charles and the places we’ve gone together fairly often in my Editor’s Note in the magazine, and I have been quietly pleased that there’s been no hate mail or threats of canceled subscriptions. To me, that’s a reflection of how open and accepting the Travel + Leisure audience is—qualities that I think go hand in hand with a love of travel.”
He continued: “I have written many times that travel works against bigotry and hatred. I believe few things more strongly. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and to express it in legal and respectful ways, but I absolutely, utterly reject bigotry of any kind, and I think most serious travelers do too. Bigotry works better for people who stay at home.”
“Despite all the progress we have made in recent years, it’s still relatively rare to see depictions of gay life like what we see in that Hilton ad, including in ‘mainstream’ magazines like ours. Few companies have the vision or the courage to do it. I was proud to run that ad in Travel + Leisure. I applaud our partners at Hilton for creating it, and I thank them for placing it with us.”
Thank you for your support, Travel + Leisure! And, of course, thank you Hilton!