The first same-sex wedding in Illinois took place on Dec. 12, 1995, in the small town of Lanford, which lies between Rockford and Elgin. Leon Carp, the co-owner of a diner called the Lanford Lunchbox, married his boyfriend Scott at the Lanford Women’s Club, in a ceremony that featured Judy Garland impersonators, male strippers, Michelangelo’s David wearing a pink feather boa, and a red heart reading GAY LOVE, GAY POWER.
“I love you in a way that is mystical, and eternal, and illegal in 20 states,” Scott told Leon at the altar.
(The following year, the General Assembly amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to declare that “A marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this state.”)
If you watched television at all in the 1990s, you’ve probably guessed that Scott and Leon’s wedding took place on an episode of Roseanne, the Illinois-based sitcom. The gay couple was played by longtime Midwestern comedy bros Fred Willard and Martin Mull. By playing a Midwestern housewife -- and looking and sounding like a Midwestern housewife -- Roseanne was able to push liberal social issues without coming off as a Hollywood liberal, the way that Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon did. (In real life, Roseanne was a candidate for the Green Party’s presidential nomination last year.)
Roseanne was not, however, the first TV show to feature a gay wedding. That was Roc, which aired the episode “Can’t Help Loving That Man” on Oct. 20, 1991. Roc was set in Baltimore. In a case of life imitating art, Maryland approved gay marriage in a referendum on Nov. 6, beating Illinois by at least two months.
So it’s nice that Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson came to Illinois to promote gay marriage -- but TV was modern long before Modern Family.