(RNN) - Support for gay marriage continues to grow, but controversy seems to follow close behind.
A depiction of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie as a gay couple on the front of the New Yorker magazine after the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 drew praise and fire from both sides of the debate.
The New Yorker cover of July 8 and July 15 entitled Moment of Joy, pictured the puppets cuddling while watching an image of Supreme Court justices on television.
The Huffington Post ran a headline calling the image "amazing."
New York Magazine's Dan Amira said the cover was more effective than the image of an "out" gay couple would have been.
"To have a closeted gay couple lends the image deeper meaning: In an intimate moment in the privacy of their home, away from the public eye, they feel heartened that society is finally coming around to accepting them for who they are," wrote Amira.
Mia Farrow, an American actress, singer and former fashion model, tweeted it's "one of the best New Yorker covers ever."
While many supported what the image of Bert and Ernie signifies, others on both sides of the debate reacted negatively.
National Review ran the headline "Innocence. Lost." over the controversial image.
A deputy editor of Flavorwire, a website that reports on pop culture, wrote the image "infantilized" the gay rights movement.
"It's belittling the decade's long fight for equal rights, by needlessly sexualizing a pair of puppets," said Tyler Coates.
Coates added that the notion of Bert and Ernie being gay lovers is ridiculous, and the propagation of the narrative is a childish statement that says more about the sexually obsessed and slightly homophobic tendencies of our culture, according to Huffington Post.
"Homophobic? Absolutely: It's a continuation of the idea that sexuality affects personality as much as it speaks of our obsession with outing the private lives of public individuals, in this case fictional characters that most of us grew up with," Coates said.
In a post entitled "Bert and Ernie come out in New Yorker," David Harsanyi, writing for the conservative news website Human Events, stated that "not even Muppets are spared in our culture war."
Many commented on Harsanyi's post with anger - one reader demanded that the "immoral animals" should "leave the kids out of it."
Anti-gay radio host Bryan Fischer, claimed that the image was "promoting child endangerment" and "child abuse."
According to hollywoodreporter.com, the original image of Bert and Ernie had President Barack Obama on the TV set, not the Supreme Court, and it was created around the time Obama came out in favor of gay marriage.
Sesame Street's producers have denied suggestions that Bert and Ernie are a couple. After New York legalized gay marriage in 2011, the show's producers responded to an online petition urging the famous roommates to wed.
"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," Sesame Workshop said in a statement to THR, at the time. "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."
Bert and Ernie are not the only cartoon characters who have been the subject of speculation and controversy.
According to BBC News, conservative group Focus on the Family said SpongeBob, of the children's cable channel Nickelodeon, is seen as an icon for adult gay men in the U.S., because he regularly holds hands with his sidekick Patrick.
SpongeBob's creators deny the speculation that the character has a sexuality.
In 1999 conservative minister Jerry Falwell claimed that handbag-carrying Teletubby Tinky Winky, an import from the UK, was a bad role-model, and represented a gay character.
According to The International News, children are at a stage when their minds are developing and forms impressions easily, so parents need to be careful.
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