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No gay wedding for Bert and Ernie

Bert and Ernie will not be getting married, Sesame Street bosses have stressed, despite a campaign backed by thousands.

Just because they are best friends, that doesn't mean they are gay, producers said.

The educational workshop behind the 40-year-old TV series dismissed the idea of a made-for-TV, same-sex puppet wedding in response to an online campaign and petition to have the two Sesame Street characters get married as a way to beat homophobia and encourage tolerance of gay people.

In recent days, almost 9,000 people have signed a petition encouraging the wedding at www.change.org and/or become friends of a special Bert and Ernie Get Married Facebook page, sparking a lively debate on Twitter and other social media.

Bert, who is fascinated by pigeons and gets easily upset, and oval-headed, free spirit Ernie, have lived together at 123 Sesame Street since 1969. They share a bedroom, but sleep in single beds.

"Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach pre-schoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. 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," Sesame Workshop said on its official Facebook page.

The change.org petition had argued that their marriage would help to put an end to bullying and suicides of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual young people.

"We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful by allowing Bert & Ernie to marry. It can be done in a tasteful way," they said.