All in the Family made LGBT history when it introduced the first gay character in primetime in 1971, revealing that Archie Bunker's bar buddy Steve was gay. Later in the show's run, Archie found out Edith's cousin was a lesbian who left her estate to her partner.
Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook and Hope Lange starred in this notable ABC TV movie about a divorced father who has found love with a younger man and struggles with telling his teen son about his new life. The movie is noted for depicting homosexuality in a sympathetic—read: normal—light.
Already out to his family, Lance Loud made history when he came out to the nation of viewers of the "first reality show," the documentary that followed his family.
The Norman Lear sitcom starring James Cromwell, Charlotte Rae and Conchata Ferrell had perhaps the first depiction of a gay couple on an American TV series.
Billy Crystal played Jodie Dallas, a series regular on the soap opera-skewering Soap. The character was divisive at the time—early plots had him wanting to become a woman, he dated several women—but ultimately he was primetime TV's first gay dad.
Robin Tyler was the first out lesbian on US TV in a Showtime comedy special hosted by Phyllis Diller.
Recurring characters Russell (David Marshall Green) and Peter (Peter Frechette) are shown in bed together "the morning after." No kissing or touching was shown and the scene generated huge attention, as advertisers fled the series.
One of Fox's first shows, Roc, was the first to have a gay wedding on TV. The sitcom starred Charles S. Dutton as Roc, a garbage collector from Baltimore. In a "very special episode," Roc finds out his uncle is gay and has a partner. The family throws a ceremony for the two at their home.
The legal drama L.A. Law featured the first romantic lesbian kiss—even if it was a ratings ploy—on primetime TV between Abby Perkins (Michele Greene) and C. J. Lamb (Amanda Donohoe).
In 1992, the world met One Life to Live's Billy Douglas, played by a young Ryan Phillippe, the first gay teen character on daytime TV.
No stranger to breaking down barriers, Roseanne featured one of the first openly lesbian characters on TV with Nancy Bartlett (Sandra Bernhard). The character recurred from season four until the end of the series.
While One Life to Live had its first gay teen in 1992, primetime's first openly gay teen series regular character came to us in My So-Called Life's Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez, played by Wilson Cruz.
In 1994, viewers also met Pedro Zamora on The Real World: San Francisco. Pedro was openly gay and HIV-positive. His commitment ceremony to Sean Sasser was the first (real) same-sex commitment ceremony broadcast on national TV. Zamora died shortly after the finale of his Real World season.
"The One With the Lesbian Wedding" episode of Friends is considered the first primetime TV episode to feature a lesbian wedding.
"The Puppy Episode" of Ellen featured Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres) coming out as gay, the same time the star came out on the cover of Time magazine, making Ellen the first show to feature an openly lesbian actress playing an openly lesbian character.
Another first for ABC! Lisa Edelstein's character, out-lesbian Rhonda, becomes the first character to have a passionate, open-mouth kiss with another woman on primetime TV.
Will & Grace, created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, premiered Sept 21, 1998. Need we say more?
While lesbian kisses became a ratings ploy for shows, TV's first "romantic" gay kiss didn't happen until 1999 on The WB. Dawson's Creek character Jack (Kerr Smith) finally got some lip action from Ethan (Adam Kaufman).
In 2003, reality TV was forever changed by the premiere of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The show helped redefine Bravo as a network and opened up the eyes of millions of viewers.
Showtime's hit lesbian drama ran for six seasons, kicking off in January 2004.
Many people would like to forget about this TV movie prequel to the classic Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, but the panned flick (which starred Katherine Heigl!) that aired on ABC Family made history by feature Alexandra Billings of Transparent fame as the first openly transgender woman to play a transgender character on TV.
Men were kissing in primetime long before daytime finally got on board, but the soaps caught up in 2007 when As the World Turns featured the first-ever gay kiss between two male characters, Luke Snyder (Van Hansis) and Noah Mayer (Jake Silbermann).
The MSNBC anchor became the first openly gay anchor of a primetime program on a major news network.
Glee, created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, premieres in May of 2009. The show would go on to break records—and stereotypes—during its six-season run.