UPDATE (06/27/13): One day after the Supreme Court issued landmark rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and returning marriage equality to California, Mitch and Cam could finally be getting married, according to EW.
“It’s a real possibility,” “Modern Family” creator Christopher Lloyd told the magazine. “It’s certainly something we are contemplating on the show in ways we wouldn’t have in prior seasons. We’ve had a number of conversations. As you can imagine in Cam and Mitchell’s life, they would be feeling that a door has opened that was closed to them. Wouldn’t it be pretty tempting to think about walking through it?”
Besides having a big impact for his on-screen persona, the marriage rulings directly affect “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who is gay and lives with his partner in Los Angeles. Ferguson took to Twitter following the decisions to celebrate, writing, “Victory for marriage in California as #Prop8 is struck down. Small but substantial steps toward #MarriageEquality for all.”
Original post (05/18/13): Americans love Cam and Mitch, from Barack and Michelle Obama to Anne and Mitt Romney. The two men aren’t just the funniest duo on ABC’s hit sitcom “Modern Family,” they’re easily the most visible fictional gay couple in the U.S–and perhaps the nation’s most visible gay couple, period. Along with their adoptive daughter, Cam and Mitch are funny, engaging and relatable: the perfect manifestation of the show’s title.
One thing they aren’t, however, is married. That’s something the American Civil Liberties Union–one of the oldest and most influential civil rights groups in the country–thinks it’s time to change. “America wants to see Cam & Mitch get hitched on Modern Family,” a new action page on the ACLU’s website reads, inviting visitors to sign up and ‘RSVP’ to the couple’s wedding. (Or rather, to their wedding episode.) The ACLU plans to deliver the guest list to the show’s producers.
This isn’t the first time Cam and Mitch have been the subject of internet activism: in 2010, a Facebook group called ‘Let Cam & Mitchell kiss on Modern Family!’ lambasted ABC for allowing only the show’s opposite-sex couples to lock lips. Later that year, the duo shared a short and sweet kiss on the air.
The ACLU’s new campaign, though, is a very different story–and a much more political one. Equal marriage rights for same-sex couples have been expanding rapidly, with the number of marriage equality states doubling in the last year alone and at least one more (Illinois) primed to join the list by the end of the month. Earlier today, France’s president, François Hollande, signed a “marriage for all” bill into law, with weddings due to begin by the end of the month. Several other countries, including Uruguay and New Zealand, have legalized marriage equality in the last few months.
This acceleration of the marriage equality movement’s successes, though, belies an important caveat: at some point, all the states whose voters lean in favor of allowing same-sex couples to wed will have extended equal marriage rights, while more conservative states will likely continue to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples only.
That’s where “Modern Family” comes in. As the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, told Frank Bruni of The New York Times, the show’s reach extends “into every household in every state regardless of what legislators or governors there say.” Knowing someone who is gay makes people more than twice as likely to support marriage equality; knowing a fictional gay couple might not have quite the same effect, but it certainly increases the visibility of families that aren’t made up of one mother, one father and children.
Of course, there’s a perfectly valid question as to whether a couple like Cam and Mitch even need to get married: clearly, the two are committed and monogamous, and they’re successfully raising a child together. Maybe they simply don’t want to get married, and technically, Cam and Mitch couldn’t get hitched in their native Los Angeles anyway because of California’s Proposition 8, which could be history by the summer. But no matter why the two might or might not be interested in marriage, it’s a discussion that they–and by extension all of us–should have.
When Vice President Joe Biden made headlines on NBC’s Meet the Press last May by saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex couples marrying–a statement that spurred President Obama to make his own announcement of support–Biden specifically cited the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace,” which ran from 1998 to 2006, as a major impetus for shifting social views across the U.S. The hit sitcom centered around a gay man, Will Truman (played by Eric McCormack), and his straight best friend and often roommate, Grace Adler (portrayed by Debra Messing).
But while Biden was right in saying that “Will & Grace” helped acclimate Americans to the normalcy of being gay, it didn’t really have the same impact when it came to gay relationships. For the majority of the show’s eight seasons, Will was usually single or casually dating–his one long-term relationship, with the man who would end up becoming his partner–didn’t even begin until the penultimate season in 2004.
In the years between “Will & Grace” and “Modern Family,” Americans as a whole have become much more accepting of gays and lesbians in general, and in the last few years, a growing majority of Americans has supported marriage equality. For better or worse (and there are many LGBT advocates who think too much focus has been placed on marriage), equal marriage rights are the defining gay rights issue of this historical moment.
There’s still plenty of work to be done when it comes to the representation of minorities in TV and film, but Cam and Mitch represent the most highly visible and positive portrayal of a so-called ‘nontraditional’ family. The ACLU has a point: it’s time for them to either tie the knot or have a serious discussion about why they aren’t planning to.
When they do, we’ll definitely be watching.