The One with the Lesbian Wedding
|"The One with the Lesbian Wedding"|
Carol and Susan exchange vows
|Directed by||Thomas Schlamme|
|Written by||Doty Abrams|
|Original air date||January 18, 1996|
"The One with the Lesbian Wedding" is the eleventh episode of the second season of the television situation comedy Friends. It attracted mild controversy and censorship as a result of its portrayal of same-sex marriage, although significantly less than expected. The episode first aired on January 18, 1996.
Ross' ex-wife Carol (Jane Sibbett) announces her plans to marry her lesbian life partner Susan (Jessica Hecht); Ross' sister Monica caters the wedding. Carol's parents refuse to attend the wedding, leading Carol to doubt her decision, but Ross — initially reluctant to see his ex-wife remarry — finds himself in the position of being the one to encourage her to go ahead with the ceremony despite her parents' opposition.
As a result of its portrayal of a lesbian couple marrying, the episode attracted some controversy across the United States. Two network affiliates refused to air the episode - KJAC-TV in Port Arthur, Texas and WLIO in Lima, Ohio - citing objectionable content, although the decision drew little press attention, partly due to the small size of the markets in question. Gay and lesbian groups - notably GLAAD - decried the censorship of the episode.
While this episode of Friends was one of the first mainstream portrayals of gay marriage on U.S. television, it was actually the second gay marriage on a sitcom. Roseanne had aired an episode just five weeks before called "December Bride" in which the title character coordinated and attended a wedding for her co-worker Leon and his lover Scott. The New York Times claimed, "The biggest news about the wedding on Friends was that it was almost no news at all." However, the fact that Carol and Susan's ceremony was officiated by Candace Gingrich, a gay-rights activist and sibling to conservative Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich did draw some media attention, as the casting was perceived as a comment on the Republican Party's anti-gay rights stance and the "Contract with America" platform. A writer with the Associated Press noted in an article that week that the ceremony would not include a kiss by the newlyweds, including the episode as part of an observed trend of portrayals of gay characters while skirting controversy by avoiding or minimizing physical contact.
The episode was the highest-rated television program for the week, with 31.6 million viewers. According to Marta Kauffman, 'NBC expected thousands and thousands of phone calls and hate mail' but actually received only four complaints by telephone.
- Ron Becker. Gay TV And Straight America, Rutgers University Press, 2006, pp. 161-163.
- "GLAAD Condemns Censorship of Friends Episode." GLAAD 18 January 1996. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Web. 27 April 2012. Original, now a dead link: 
- Lynn Elber (Associated Press). "TV gays avoid the physical stuff," The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) 15 January 1996 page 11D.
- Staff writer (1996-02-02). "Here come the brides". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- Wild, David (2004). Friends ...'Til the End. London: Headline. p. 216. ISBN 0-7553-1321-6.