Producers of the well-known children's show Sesame Street have refused a request to portray a same-sex marriage and promote gay rights to its young audience.
A Chicago-area man started an online petition Aug. 4 calling for a marriage between Muppet characters Bert and Ernie.
The puppet pals have lived together and shared a room with two single beds for more than 20 years on Sesame Street.
The online petition posted on Change.org said that marrying Bert and Ernie would teach kids that "homophobia is not okay."
"We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful," petition creator Lair Scott wrote on the website. "It can be done in a tasteful way. Let us teach tolerance of those that are different."
More than 7,500 people signed the petition in a week.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind Sesame Street, responded to the request saying Bert and Ernie are "identified as male characters," but "remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation."
"Bert and Ernie are best friends," producers said on the Sesame Workshop Facebook page. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves."
Supporters of the Bert and Ernie union say Sesame Street has celebrated a wedding before between characters Maria and Luis.
The petition also asked producers to add a transgender character.