Televison shows like How to Get Away with Murder, Empire, Faking It, and Modern Family are working diligently toward normalizing the display of gay affection. After years of harsh restrictions by broadcast networks, progressive series are integrating more LGBT characters and storylines. Some call it gaybaiting, but it isn't just a ploy for ratings or titillation, it remains a rebellious and celebratory act for many around the globe. These programs are giving us what we want: gay love in a true and representative form.
In reality a kiss might be meaningless, but it means a great deal when a major network broadcasts a gay kiss to millions. The following unforgettable kisses gave us weak knees and pulsing... hearts.
History was made in 1991 when L.A. Law actors Amanda Donohoe and Michele Greene locked lips in network television's first lesbian kiss. It was not uncommon for the Emmy-winning drama to push boundaries of traditional television, but this was really a daring move. (skip to 26:40)
ABC's Roseanne embraced controversy, including numerous gay-inclusive moments. In a 1994 episode, Roseanne shared a kiss with Mariel Hemingway, who played a lesbian stripper at a local gay bar. In a sign of the times, ABC prefaced the show with a parental guidance disclaimer.
In 2000, Dawson's Creek became the first network television show to air a passionate male-male kiss when actors Kerr Smith and Adam Kaufman wrestled tongues. "The truth is TV is a business of ratings," the episode's director, James Whitmore, said of the kiss. "If you've got something exciting that's going to happen on TV, everybody tunes in and watches it."
On a 1999 episode of dramedy Ally McBeal, actresses Calista Flockhart and Lucy Liu shared a romantic moment after their dinner together. Although this was not the first lesbian kiss on the show, it was the first not done to thwart creepy men hitting on Ally.
Xena: Warrior Princess
During the 1990s and 2000s, viewers excitedly watched actresses Lucy Lawless (Xena) and Renee O'Connor (Gabrielle) lock lips on several occasions, all while wondering if these two were gay or not. In an interview, Lucy Lawless stated Xena was "definitely gay."
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This satirical show was one of the first mainstream programs to portray an ongoing lesbian relationship. Although the pairing between Willow and Tara was no secret, the first kiss between the couple was not aired until the fifth season due to restrictions from the WB network.
Same-sex kissing on The Fosters is not out of the ordinary, considering the show is about a lesbian couple and their teenage foster kids. However, a recent episode made headlines for featuring TV's youngest gay kiss in history: It occurred between teenage characters Jude and Connor.
Will & Grace
Classic comedy Will & Grace had audiences cheering during a 2000 episode when Will and Jack locked lips. In the episode, Jack tunes in excitedly to see two male characters from his favorite show kiss and make history. When the camera pulls away from the couple and you don't see the kiss, Jack and Will head to the network to protest and smooch each other.
In 1997, short-lived ABC drama Relativitysparked controversy when it aired a kiss between female character Rhonda (Lisa Edelstein) and another woman. While the kiss represents only a small part of the story, the writer of the episode, Jan Oxenberg, who is a lesbian, said watching the kiss evoked tears.
Ellen DeGeneres made history by coming out in both real life and on her sitcom, Ellen, in 1997. Prior to that, Ellen's character made out with numerous dudes, but she finally got to lock lips with ladies in the show's final season. It was only natural!
NBC's juggernaut Friends was never shy about LGBT storylines, (Chandler's father was transgender, Ross's ex-wife Susan was a lesbian), but when Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and her old sorority sister Melissa (Winona Ryder) locked lips, viewers were more shocked by the famous pairing than by the fact that it was two women doing it.
Party of Five
On this popular drama, Julia Salinger (Neve Campbell) planted one on character Perry Marks (Olivia D'Abo) during a short-lived 1999 storyline. Although Julia was kissing a woman, executive producer John Romano made it clear that Campbell's character was not a lesbian.
All My Children
In 2003, daytime television saw its first lesbian kiss on ABC's All My Children. The soap opera aired a kiss between Bianca (Eden Riegel) and Lena (Olga Sosnovska). The media quickly picked up the story and rumors of a lesbian sex scene made the rounds. "A relationship will develop between Bianca and Lena," said a network spokesperson, "however, at this time, there are no plans for explicit love-making scenes on-screen."
Queer as Folk
This show and it's British predecessor are responsible for bringing gay culture to a mainstream audience. That may sound melodramatic, but it's nevertheless true. In 2000, Showtime remade the British series and broadcast explicit gay sex to the world of premium cable subscribers. If there is a singular over-arching storyline on the series, it would be Brian (Gale Harold) and Justin's (Randy Harrison) relationship and all the tests it is put through.
Brothers & Sisters
In the first season of ABC drama Brothers & Sisters, gay character Kevin (Matthew Rhys) locked lips with Scotty (Luke Macfarlane) in 2006. Although this was not the first gay kiss on network television, Kevin was one of the few major gay characters on TV at that time.
Brothers & Sisters
Despite their memorable first kiss, Kevin (Matthew Rhys) didn't immediately lock it down with Scotty (Luke MacFarlane). Luckily for us, his sexual tension with Jason (Eric Winter) at the end of the first season led to this pantry makeout session.
It wasn't that long ago -- just 2010 -- that a Facebook campaign was launched calling on the creators of Modern Family to let same-sex couple Mitch and Cam share a kiss on screen. All of the show's other couples seemed to have no problem with kisses. Then it happened, in an episode about how Mitch hates PDA. The kiss actually comes only as part of the background of the scene. With that over with, now there have been plenty of kisses since and a same-sex wedding, too.
Days of Our Lives
Although late to the party, NBC's Days of Our Lives aired its first gay kiss in 2012, between Will (Chandler Massey) and Neil (Jesse Kristofferson). Even though Days didn't lead the pack, it still was applauded for including a gay storyline.
In its six seasons, Ryan Murphy's Glee unabashedly embraced LGBT storylines. But the love story between Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) may be the most memorable. The couple's first kiss was passionate; no peck for these two.
We have to give it to Glee; its creators didn't settle for one same-sex storyline, they crafted two. Kurt and Blaine found each other, but so did two of the school's most popular girls, cheerleaders Brittany and Santana.
Justin, the young nephew of this show's protagonist, was always effeminate. But Ugly Betty's writers boldly confirmed that Justin was playing for our team in 2010 when he made out with one of his costars in a school play.
OK, it was just a fantasy/dream sequence on a series that was becoming increasingly silly, but True Blood's pairing of Jason Stackhouse and Eric the Vampire was one of the sexiest same-sex scenes in TV history. Leave it to HBO to go there.
The L Word
Showtime's long running lesbian series had its critics--deservedly so--but no series before or since has focused on a large cast of lesbian characters, played mostly by lesbian actors. All of the portrayed relationships tended toward the dramatic, but the core characters shared some sweet moments. Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina (Laurel Holloman) struggled with monogamy, but the two were meant for each other.
As the bisexual Captain Jack Harkness on the BBC's Doctor Who and its spinoff Torchwood, out actor John Barrowman got to make out with plenty of guys. But the episode where he comes out features quite the romantic snog.
This Showtime drama paired two of its male leads, Reeve Carney and Josh Hartnett, for a surprise, absinthe-soaked make-out session. They're clothed first and then, whoops, there goes the shirts! The blase reaction shows how far we've come.
The Good Wife
Kalinda (Parminder Nagra) is the bisexual femme fatale of this gripping CBS drama. Smart and determined, Kalinda became a poster girl for lesbians and bi women everywhere, especially after this super hot kiss between her and an FBI agent she's goading for information early in the series.
As the HBO dramedy centered on gay men, it had no shortage of same-sex kissing, but the kiss between protagonist Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Kevin (Russell Tovey) had the extra forbidden air -- Kevin was not only partnered, he was Patrick's boss.
Orange is the New Black
We couldn't have this list and not feature the impetus for it! There are many lovely lesbian kisses on this show, but how about when Piper (Taylor Schilling) finally gives in to her attraction to Alex, the no-good ex who helped land her in jail.
The entire MTV show may be focused on the faux lesbian relationship of Karma and Amy, but it's Duke and Shane who live out every gay teen's wet dream. The two met on Stubble (a la Grindr) but have evolved from secret hookups to an actual relationship with plenty of PDA and a love confession or two.
How To Get Away With Murder
Sexual antics undoubtedly play a palpable role in the power dynamics and relationships between all the characters. Everyone is in bed with everyone else. Connor and Oliver are the clear power gay couple, but it was revealed that Annalise Keating is attracted to both sexes and has a stunning ex-girlfriend (Famke Jansen) to boot.
How To Get Away With Murder
It's an absolute necessity to include law student, Connor (Jack Falahee), and his boyfriend, Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) on this list. The two routinely engage in progressive talks about PREP and HIV in between their hot romps around the bedroom. The pair can always be counted on to give viewers their weekly allowance of hot TV sex.
During the second season of the hit teen soap, resident hot mess, Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) began a fiery lesbian romance with Alex (Olivia Wilde). She eventually went back to Ryan, but her brief experimental phase was greatly appreciated. RIP Marissa Cooper.
Pretty Little Liars
The ABC Family, soon to be Freeform, series constructed around four teenage girls and their hunt for the mysterious "A" has dragged on for years. For dedicated fans, those years were highlighted with the trials and tribulations of Emily (Shay Mitchell). Emily's coming out and acceptance of her lesbian identity was a prominent storyline. As was her relationship with Paige (Lindsey Shaw)--affectionately nicknamed "Paily."
Hit the Floor
Who knew VH1 was churning out scripted television shows? This soapy drama turns the lens toward the world of professional basketball. The hidden gay romance occurs between the rebellious basketball player Zero (Adam Senn) and sports agent Jude (Brent Antonello).
Although there isn't any video footage available of the gay kisses between Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett), Empire's heir, and his boyfriend Michael (Rafael de la Fuente), the picture explains it all. Smollett is among the minority of gay actors playing a gay character on a network television series. The mega hit drama is remarkably led by a talented cast including Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard.