About Those Di­vorce Ru­mors...

In Touch (USA) - - Coverstory -

Though In Touch could find only one on­line head­line about a po­ten­tial di­vorce — with no in­for­ma­tion to back it up — from back in March, Chip and Joanna can’t stop deny­ing that they’re split­ting up af­ter 14 years of mar­riage. “Some­one [will] come up to me and say, ‘I hear you and Chip are get­ting a di­vorce. I’m like, ‘Where did you hear [that]?’” Joanna, who told fans not to be “scammed” by the fake news, said on To­day on Sept. 14. Chip re­cently weighed in on Twit­ter, too. When a fan brought up the spec­u­la­tion, he wrote, “Won’t ever hap­pen.”

re­vealed that the Gaines fam­ily at­tends An­ti­och Com­mu­nity Church, an evan­gel­i­cal megachurch whose pas­tor, Jimmy Seib­ert, “takes a hard line against same-sex mar­riage and pro­motes con­vert­ing LGBT peo­ple into be­ing straight.” The Gaine­ses also faced ac­cu­sa­tions that they them­selves were ho­mo­pho­bic be­cause they had never fea­tured a same-sex cou­ple dur­ing the show’s four sea­sons that had aired. HGTV, which has aired Fixer Up­per since 2013, tried to stem the dam­age by is­su­ing a state­ment: “We don’t dis­crim­i­nate against mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity in any of our shows.”

The af­fa­ble, goofy Chip tried to dif­fuse the sit­u­a­tion. In a blog post he wrote on Jan. 2, he ex­pressed alarm over how di­vided hu­man­ity is and said his fam­ily wants to fight for a world where peo­ple can “lov­ingly dis­agree.” “Joanna and I have per­sonal con­vic­tions. One of them is this: We care about you for the sim­ple fact that you are a per­son,” he wrote. “It’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, na­tion­al­ity or faith.” But Noah Michel­son, the editorial di­rec­tor of Huff Po Voices, claimed Chip was try­ing to have his cake and eat it, too. “They want to be able to ei­ther ac­tively think that gay or queer peo­ple are cor­rupt or un­nat­u­ral or just shouldn’t be al­lowed to get mar­ried and at the same time they don’t want to deal with any of the con­se­quences for that be­lief,” he tells In Touch. “They don’t want to be called out, they don’t want to be boycotted, and they don’t want a PR dis­as­ter.”

And just like that scan­dal blew over, so will the Tar­get ker­fuf­fle, be­lieves LA brand­ing ex­pert Rob Frankel. “In two to three years, ev­ery­one is go­ing to for­get about” the bath­room de­bate, Frankel tells In Touch. Mean­while, Chip and Joanna will rake in plenty of cash from the Tar­get deal, even if some peo­ple stay away. “Tar­get is one of the top 100 brands in the coun­try,” he con­tin­ues. “You’re not go­ing to do badly if you do a deal with them.” And Car­men Saenz of the In­terWaco LGBTQ Com­mu­nity Group also be­lieves the Gaine­ses made a shrewd move. “The op­ti­mist side of me wants to say, yes, they’ve be­come more open-minded,” she tells In Touch. “The pes­simist side of me wants to say they will do what­ever they need to do to make money.”

With pas­sion­ate voices on both sides of the de­bate, Chip and Joanna could use the con­tro­versy to open another con­ver­sa­tion. “Jo and I feel called to be bridge builders,” Chip said in Jan­uary. “We want to help ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tions be­tween peo­ple that don’t think alike.” He reaf­firmed his com­mit­ment to keep an open mind in his Sept. 12 blog post. “With our friends, our fam­ily and with the peo­ple we do busi­ness with,” he wrote, “we are se­ri­ous about con­tin­u­ally find­ing com­mon ground.” ◼

‘‘ We be­lieve we are go­ing to build some­thing re­ally beau­ti­ful [with Tar­get] and that our pos­i­tive im­pact will be far greater now than it would ever be apart” — CHIP

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