An online petition is calling on Sesame Street to confirm what many viewers have suspected for years: that puppet roommates Bert and Ernie are, in fact, a gay couple.

The petition, which has collected more than 1,600 signatures in the last week, argues for a tasteful reveal that could involve a same-sex marriage ceremony.

Illinois resident Lair Scott, who started the petition, says the move could help curb bullying of gay and lesbian youth and even prevent suicides.

"This is a learning tool and not anything aquainted with sexual behaviour," Scott told in an email. "This is about education and tolerance. It's a civil rights movement."

Proponents argue the PBS show has already featured at least one heterosexual marriage and that Sesame Street, being set in a fictional New York neighbourhood, would fall under the purview of New York State's Marriage Equality Act.

But conservative blogs have blasted the idea as taxpayer-funded youth indoctrination. Others critics point to the lack of heterosexual pairings on the show, arguing there's no reason to assign sexual preferences to puppets.

Sesame Street is known for broaching sensitive subject matter in its programming, however, including the introduction of an HIV-positive puppet, Kami, in 2002.

Some also claim the show has hinted at a relationship between Bert and Ernie's before – most recently through a Tweet sent by "Bert" in June 2010 noting the similarity between his hair and Mr. T's.

"The only difference is mine is a littler more ‘mo,' a little less ‘hawk,'" it read.

"Mo" is sometimes used as a slang term for a gay man.

Last September, Archie Comics introduced its first gay character, Kevin Keller, in a sold-out issue that prompted the company to issue a reprint for the first time in its history.

The popular character will also be headlining his own spinoff comic, which will debut next February.

Have your say: Would outing Ernie and Bert help stop homophobic bullying?