Same-sex marriage on TV: a long history of acceptance

After the legalization of same-sex marriage, Sarah Hope takes a look back at the history of gay weddings on television.

With Friday’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, a line was drawn in the sand.

Rather, a line was chiseled on the sidewalk. It is probably a rainbow line. Whatever the line looks like, it’s solid, we have crossed it, and we cannot go back. There is now a definitive before and an after when it comes to marriage equality.

Activists I have spoken to in the days since have found themselves reflecting on life “before” this monumental day and the myriad forces that brought us here. Many have worked for decades to achieve this goal, and now that it has been reached, they will continue to work toward a host of other issues faced by the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) community. The fight is far from over.

As our understanding of the queer community as fellow humans with rights and dignity (what a novel thought!) has changed in the last 25 years, pop culture has led the way. According to Michael J. Klarman in a 2013 issue of Harvard Magazine, TV began showing same-sex couples getting married around the same time the modern day marriage equality movement took root in the late 1980s.

Whether you’re looking to celebrate by watching as many tear-jerking wedding scenes as your tired eyes can possibly handle, or seeking etiquette tips for the thousands of weddings you’ll now be invited to, here are some of the best same-sex weddings ever shown on TV.

1. Roc, “Can’t Help Loving That Man” (1991)

When the first same-sex wedding aired on TV in 1991, it was still illegal for gay couples to have consensual sex with their partners — let alone marry them! — in 20 states. Until a Supreme Court decision (Lawrence v. Texas) in 2003, if the police in certain states caught two people with the same private parts doing the dirty, they could be arrested — even if they were in their own home, minding their business and bothering no one but their dog.

But on Roc, Fox’s early-’90s sitcom about a Baltimore garbage man, a working class family tackled their discomfort with the gay community when a family member came out. Todd VanDerWerff at Vox explored the significance of this groundbreaking episode in the wake of Friday’s decision.

2. Friends, “The One with the Lesbian Wedding” (1996)

Five years later, Friends, in its second season and at the peak of its popularity, aired an episode in which Ross’s ex-wife Carol married her partner Susan. There had been other same-sex weddings in the interim — two innkeepers wed on the Alaskan dramedy Northern Exposure in 1994 (officiated by a then gloriously long-haired John Corbett), and Roseanne planned her boss’s wedding in 1995 — but Friends was a monumentally popular show in the mid-’90s, so it’s embrace of same-sex marriage was important.

3. All My Children (2008)

In the fall of 2008, All My Children‘s Bianca and Reese became the first lesbian couple to be engaged on a daytime soap opera. Bianca gave birth during a tornado, then Reese showed up and surprised her with a house in France and proposed. That’s how it always works, right?

4. Grey’s Anatomy, “White Wedding” (2011)

No stranger to pushing boundaries and showing all kinds of stories, Grey’s Anatomy‘s nuanced (and ultimately star-crossed) lesbian couple Callie and Arizona married in a lovely, traditional ceremony, just as Meredith Grey and McDreamy solidified their post-it promises at the courthouse.

5. Modern Family, “The Wedding (Parts 1 and 2)” (2014)

Modern Family‘s Mitch and Cam lived together and adopted a child, but didn’t kiss on the lips on-screen for the entire first season. After months of fans calling for the couple to act like more than friends and kiss, dammit, the writers finally obliged in the second episode of the second season. But, the pair didn’t seal the deal until the end of season five, in a two-part extravaganza, complete with firefighters.

6. Glee, “A Wedding” (2014)

Brittany and Santana, the beloved lesbian aca-couple got hitched during Glee‘s final season. After their passionate reunion, Brittany invited another gay aca-couple, Kurt and Blaine, to share in the ceremony. And somewhere, somebody started writing the script for My Big Fat Gay Glee Double Wedding.

Bonus: Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Sure, Wet Hot American Summer was a movie, not a TV show. But as of July 31, it’s totally a TV show. The 2001 cult classic has been revived by Netflix with an eight-episode prequel starring the original cast. That includes Bradley Cooper (as Ben) and Michael Ian Black (as McKinley), two counselors who got married by the lake at Camp Firewood in the movie.

What have been your favorite gay weddings in pop culture? Let us know in the comments.

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