Why Didn’t CBS Mention Sara Gilbert’s Partner in PR About New Show?

Actor and lesbian mom Sara Gilbert (Roseanne, The Big Bang Theory) will be one of six mothers starring in a new daytime talk show on CBS this fall, the network announced. But just how comfortable is “America’s Most Watched Network” with Gilbert’s family?

Gilbert developed the show and also serves as executive producer. She and her co-stars—Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete, Leah Remini, and Marissa Jaret Winokur—”will examine topical events and contemporary issues through the eyes of mothers.”

I love the idea of a lesbian mom on a major network show about motherhood; even more so if she’s in charge. But here’s how the network described each of the other hosts:

Julie Chen . . . lives in New York and Los Angeles with her husband, Leslie Moonves, with whom she has a son and 3 stepchildren.

Holly Robinson Peete . . . and her husband of 15 years are the proud parents of four children. They currently reside in Los Angeles.

Sharon Osbourne . . . lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Ozzy Osbourne. They have three children.

Leah Remini . . . lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Angelo Pagan, and daughter and three stepsons.

Marissa Jaret Winokur . . .  and her husband, comedy writer Judah Miller, reside in Los Angles [sic] with their son Zev.

Compare:

Sara Gilbert . . . lives in Los Angeles with her family.

That “family” consists of her partner Allison Adler and their two children. (To the best of my knowledge, the women have not married, so I’m going with “partner” instead of “spouse.”) Why didn’t CBS name Adler as they did with all of the other spouses?

CBS has had a troubling record with respect to LGBT rights, as Mike Jones of Change.org has written. They got a failing grade from GLAAD last year for a lack of LGBT characters. They have refused to air LGBT-friendly ads, but allowed banners from the anti-LGBT Focus on the Family to run on a CBS-managed Web site until pressure from LGBT advocates forced them to pull the ads. On the other hand, CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler, told the Hollywood Reporter that her division has been making “a concerted effort” to encourage shows to include gay characters. And giving the go-ahead to Gilbert’s show seems a step in the right direction.

CBS’ decision not to mention Adler and the two children in the press release is therefore puzzling. I don’t see how Gilbert could be on a show about motherhood and not ever mention that she is parenting with another woman, so clearly CBS isn’t trying to hide her orientation entirely.

Perhaps CBS made the decision in an effort not to turn off potential viewers before they begin watching. On one level, that’s not a bad thing. Any viewer who might not watch a show because it includes a lesbian mom is exactly the kind of  person we want to draw in unawares, only to teach her that we’re not so bad after all.

On the other hand, Reuters (via ABC), in its coverage of the show announcement, says, “Gilbert . . . has two children with her lesbian partner Allison Adler.” Word is getting out whether CBS wants it or not. Any viewer who might reject a show because it includes a lesbian will likely discover Gilbert’s orientation and not watch, the network’s coy press release notwithstanding. CBS therefore had nothing to lose by including a mention of Adler. By not doing so, they indicate they still have a lot to learn. Let’s hope future announcements about the show are more inclusive.

[UPDATE: 7/22, 10:30 a.m.: CBS News’ Web site just ran a post about the show, and said, “Gilbert is a lesbian mom, raising two children with partner Allison Adler.”

I still think it’s worrisome that the main press release about the show hid the fact that Gilbert has a same-sex partner. This might reflect some interdepartmental differences in approach at CBS, perhaps—CBS Entertainment, which ran the press release, vs. CBS News? Just a guess.]