In honor of International Kissing Day (which is totally a thing), we’re celebrating same-sex TV smooches that had tongues wagging. Whether they were unexpected or planned, these liplocks were water-cooler fodder for weeks.
“L.A. Law,” 1991YouTube
The first same-sex kiss on television happened between bisexual C.J. Lamb (Amanda Donohoe) and straight lawyer Abby Perkins (Michele Greene) in the episode “He’s a Crowd.”
NBC reported it lost advertisers but said it had no problem replacing them, and of 85 calls made to the network about the episode, “slightly more than half” were negative.
That same week, Cheers aired a kiss between two men, but because it was in jest and ended with one punching the other, it was condemned by GLAAD for “the idea that there can’t be affection between two men without it being followed by violence.”
In “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Roseanne and Jackie accompany newly out Nancy (Sandra Bernhard) and her girlfriend, Sharon (Morgan Fairchild), to the local gay bar. Once there, Roseanne is chatted up and eventually kissed by another woman (played by Mariel Hemingway).
ABC attempted to pull the episode—executive producer Tom Arnold quoting an exec as having said “a woman cannot kiss a woman. It is bad for the kids to see,” but the network relented, choosing to put a Parental Advisory notice on it instead.
“The Real World,” 1994MTV
HIV positive Pedro Zamora was one of the first gay men allowed to show affection on national television, and his relationship with Sean Sasser culminated in the couple’s commitment ceremony, another first which had them exchanging rings—and kisses.
Zamora, 22, tragically passed away just a few hours after the season finale aired.
The same year Ellen came out, Lisa Edelstein and Kristin Dattilo appeared on an episode of this short-lived ABC series as two women on a first date. Their end-of-the-night-kiss has the distinction of being the first kiss between two actual queer characters.
“Dawson’s Creek,” 2000YouTube
It wasn’t until 2000 that two gay men were shown kissing on screen: Dawson’s Season 3 finale saw Jack (Kerr Smith) going to find his ex, Ethan (Adam Kaufman), in Boston to win him back. Once there they finally share a passionate kiss.
Episode director James Whitmore said the WB was nervous, but nonetheless decided, “airing the scene would be in their favor.”
“Will & Grace,” 2000YouTube
In a very on-the-nose episode of Will & Grace, Will (Eric McCormack) and Jack are infuriated that NBC cut a gay kiss from a primetime show and protest outside of the Today show studios. They accost Al Roker, and once they have the camera’s attention, Will surprisingly plants on on Jack.
“Xena: Warrior Princess,” 2001Xena: Warrior Princess
In the series finale, Gabrielle brings Xena back to life with a mouthful of water, very much a kiss by most standards. While producers were hesitant to label the relationship between the two warrior women, Renee O’Connor (Gabrielle) and Lucy Lawless (Xena) both have stated tey believe their characters were in love. That’s good enough for us.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” 2001YouTube
Despite having been together for nearly two seasons, it wasn’t until Season 5, Episode 16, that Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) kissed on-screen. Joss Whedon claims the WB initially “raised an eyebrow” but released the episode without fanfare, which is one reason why the in-the-moment, private kiss is so magical.
“All My Children” 2003YouTube
When Erica Kane’s daughter came out as a lesbian, some viewers raised metaphorical pitchforks. ABC actually ran focus groups to gauge reaction to Lena (Olga Sosnovska) giving Bianca (Eden Riegel) a closed-mouth kiss. Some found it distasteful, but many others said it was a positive representation of the world around them. In the end it took another five years for Bianca to have a sex scene with another woman, despite the show’s straight characters having boudoir scenes on the regular.
MTV Video Music Awards, 2003Chris Polk/FilmMagic
When Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera took the stage to perform “Like a Virgin” at the 2003 VMAs, Madonna shared a kiss with both women. It’s now one of the most infamous performances in VMAs history, although a lot of people tend to forget Christina’s role in it all.
“As The World Turns,” 2007YouTube
It was just five seconds, but Luke and Noah’s lips touching made history as the first kiss between two men on daytime TV. Fans campaigned for another, sending Hershey’s Kisses to the show’s production offices, while the American Family Association threatened to boycott the show’s sponsors if they continued the “repulsive” relationship.
It took almost an entire year before Noah and Luke would be allowed to kiss again.
The American Music Awards, 2009YouTube
The out American Idol finalist planted an open-mouth kiss on a male dancer during a live performance of “For Your Entertainment” at the AMAs, causing Good Morning America to cancel his appearance on their show the following day. (“Given his controversial live performance on the AMAs we were concerned about airing a similar concert so early in the morning,” the show said in a statement.)
Lambert attacked what he saw as a double standard. “Female performers have been doing this for years—pushing the envelope about sexuality—and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out,” he said. “We’re in 2009; it’s time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people’s eyes, and if it offends them, then maybe I’m not for them.”
“The Fosters,” 2015YouTube
FreeForm’s show about lesbian moms and their adopted children made history when they featured a kiss between 13-year-olds Jude (Hayden Byerly) and Connor (Gavin Macintosh). One Million Moms had a cow, while #Jonnor fans were elated
“Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” 2017YouTube
Disney’s first animated same-sex kiss aired on the XD series Star vs. the Forces of Evil. On the episode “Just Friends,” attendees of a boy band concert are inspired to show love to their partners, a few same-sex couples included.
Unsurprisingly, One Million Moms also targeted Disney for this act of inclusion, asking supporters to sign a petition asking Disney “to produce family-friendly entertainment.”