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Mr. Ratburn Married a Man in "Arthur''s 22nd Season Premiere

Mr. Ratburn Married a Man in

This was the first same-sex wedding to air on the beloved kids’ show.

The 22nd season of Arthur, a kids’ favorite, aired on CBS with a deceptively simple plot: Mr. Ratburn, Arthur and his pals’ teacher, was going to get married. The characters couldn’t believe it–and audiences were thrilled when Mr. Ratburn walked down the aisle with a man. “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” showcases the first same-sex wedding on the show, although the word “gay” is never said and it is never mentioned out loud that Mr. Ratburn’s new husband is a man. For characters like Arthur and Francine, the most worrisome thing about Mr. Ratburn's ceremony was his terrible dancing skills.

Mr. Ratburn and his husband are not the first gay characters in the Arthur universe, however. A 2005 episode of Postcards from Buster, an Arthur spinoff, was supposed to include Buster visiting Vermont to learn about dairy production and meeting real-life kids with lesbian parents. The episode was pulled from PBS at the same time that Margaret Spellings, former education secretary under George W. Bush, demanded that PBS return all federal funding used in the production of the episode. She claimed in a letter that "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode." According to Out magazine, Arthur creator Marc Brown said he was “disappointed” by PBS’s decision to comply with Spellings’ request. However, some member stations across the country, including WNET in New York, chose to air the episode themselves.

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“What we are trying to do in the series is connect kids with other kids by reflecting their lives,” Brown said. “In some episodes, as in the Vermont one, we are validating children who are seldom validated. We believe that Postcards From Buster does this in a very natural way—and, as always, from the point of view of children."

Arthur and Postcards From Buster have always made a point to include diverse perspectives and lifestyles in their programming. It appears “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” is working in the same vein. And it wasn’t just kids who got to be shocked and excited by Mr. Ratburn’s union. The Internet–mostly young adults who grew up watching Arthur–freaked out over the wedding and expressed support for the strict-but-beloved rat. It appears Mr. Ratburn’s husband is an aardvark just like Arthur.