A “Modern” Victory

The Supreme Court's same-sex marriage rulings help Cameron and Mitchell. But how much did Cameron, Mitchell and pop culture help same-sex marriage?


The U.S. Supreme Court's decisions Wednesday spelling the end of the Defense of Marriage Act and the apparent demise of California's Proposition 8 spurred differing reactions. But we're willing to bet the same thought occurred to many TV fans on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate: What does all this mean for Californians Cameron and Mitchell of "Modern Family?"

A wedding could be in the offing next season, Entertainment Weekly reports. “It’s a real possibility,” show co-creator Christopher Lloyd told the magazine

The potential TV nuptials reflect the realization of a goal barely spoken of just 20 years ago when throngs of gays and lesbians marched in Washington, demanding equal rights amid the AIDS crisis. The contemplation of a new move for television's best family sitcom also suggests that even if it's impossible to know how big a role pop culture played in bringing social change, Hollywood is leading the victory lap for same-sex marriage supporters.

President Clinton signed DOMA in 1996, two years before "Will & Grace" debuted. While not the first major network primetime show to prominently feature openly homosexual characters – credit goes to Billy Crystal's Jodie on "Soap" in 1977 – the comedy helped kick TV's closet door off the hinges. We've since seen a range of programs – and characters – from "The L Word" to "Glee" to "Modern Family" to the short-lived "The New Normal," whose occasional great moments included the series finale: the arrival of a son for two proud dads.

Who knows if any of the Supreme Court justices are watching? But much of the public is – including Vice President Biden, who gave “Will & Grace” a shoutout on "Meet the Press" last year when he came out in favor of same-sex marriage ahead of President Obama. One of the few areas of agreement to emerge in last year's president campaign was "Modern Family," a favorite show in both the Obama and Romney households.

Polls show increasing support for same-sex marriage, marking, in part, a generational shift. It’s no surprise that much of the reaction to Wednesday’s decision played out on Twitter and elsewhere online, via celebrities and regular folks alike.

Even if much of the Web action is youth driven, one of the most powerful virtual voices on same-sex marriage has been 76-year-old “Star Trek” star George Takei, who became a different kind of pop culture icon when he came out in 2005, taking to the online world with a Sulu-like skill. “Never lose heart, never give up,” he posted to Twitter and Facebook after Wednesday's news out of Washington.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell on “Modern Family” tweeted: “Remember the old days when #DOMA was around and gay people couldn't get married in California? Crazy right!?”

As Cameron and Mitchell mull picking out wedding tuxes, check out perhaps the Internet’s most memorable – and entertaining – take on the fight for same-sex marriage: “Prop 8 – The Musical,” a late 2008 Funny or Die short featuring Jack Black (as Jesus), Neil Patrick Harris and Maya Rudolph, among many other stars. The viral video’s fans and creators, no doubt, are singing a happier tune today:

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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