Will & Grace Was Gay, But Not Gay Marriage

Get your facts straight, Mr. Biden.

Now that we have the first gay president, what does that make the vice president? His bitch?

In a word, yes, but not a terribly obedient one. By declaring his support for same-sex marriage last week on Meet the Press, Joltin’ Joe Biden tipped the president’s hand and forced him to move up his timetable.

Obama reportedly had planned to drop the bombshell this week on The View. Lots of friendly estrogen there, and he’s hustling for the women’s vote. For dramatic visuals, however, Dancing With the Stars would have been the better choice. He could have tangoed with Donald.

For those of us for whom television is oxygen, Biden’s performance did not disappoint.

During his discussion of gay marriage with anchor David Gregory, Biden credited Will & Grace with “probably [doing] more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s done so far.”

Right church, wrong pew, Mr. Vice President. While NBC’s Will & Grace changed multitudes of hearts and minds about homosexuality during its historic 1998-to-2006 run, same-sex marriage was not in its comedic field of vision.

In fact, neither of the show’s two gay characters, Will (Eric McCormack) and Jack (Sean Hayes), was remotely interested in marriage. Will was the straightest gay man in the world; Jack was a promiscuous queen. The straight characters, Grace (Debra Messing) and Karen (Megan Mullally), got the marriage storylines.

This is not to minimize the importance of Will & Grace. Without a single sermon, it advanced the national conversation about homosexuality in a way that only a popular TV show can. Its predecessor, Ellen, self-destructed after Ellen DeGeneres and her character came out.

Still, Will & Grace wouldn’t have come to be without Ellen. Once Ellen opened the door, Will & Grace was able to burst into the room with a marching band, tastefully accessorized. For the first time, Americans laughed with the queers instead of at them.

Ultimately, Will & Grace begat Modern Family, a show that is definitely making a difference in public attitudes toward same-sex marriage. For all we know, Biden’s brain was thinking Modern Family when his mouth said Will & Grace.

Modern Family revolves around three branches of the same family, including a gay male couple and their adopted toddler daughter. It is the most popular show in the country, and with good reason. It is brilliantly written, beautifully acted and laugh-out-loud funny.

Since Obama’s remarks last week about same-sex marriage were bathed in references to parenthood and family, it is both fitting and proper that Modern Family be the administration’s cultural touchstone on the issue. Do I hear a second on the motion?

Of course, all of this is incidental compared to Obama’s public endorsement of same-sex marriage, the importance of which cannot be overstated. Yes, he left the final decision up to the states, and yes, Pennsylvania is in no danger of being dragged into the 20th century in that regard.

Still, the most powerful person on the planet said that my partner of 22 years and I have the right to legally marry. For millions of us, that is a momentous beginning.