Confession time – I’m not super into celebrity gossip. I don’t usually know who’s been married, who’s on their way to divorce court or even why the Kardashians are worth keeping up with in the first place. But I do know that there are people in the limelight who have used their status and notoriety in order to advance positive social change.
Today there are many gay and lesbian couples stepping into the spotlight not only to advance the acceptance of the LGBT community but to simply finally live openly and, of course, to pursue LGBT marriage equality. But it’s the couples who came before that deserve a bit of recognition – the people who had to balance the public aspects of their lives and careers while trying to maintain a very private life. These are the 10 celebrity lesbian weddings worth knowing about not because of the women involved, but because of the impact each had on our social landscape.
10. Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner
On New Years Eve, 2013, Lily Tomlin and her longtime girlfriend, Jane Wagner, tied the knot in a private ceremony in Los Angeles. The two had met back in 1971 and immediately became joined at the hip, collaborating on a number of projects. Typically, Wagner was referred to as Tomlin’s “closest friend” but, in reality, the two maintained a relationship for 42 years before finally tying the knot. Why You Should Care: Tomlin and Wagner are the most celebrated and well-known example of LGBT partners who have been together for years but who have been denied the ability to have their union legally recognized.
9. Sara Gilbert & Linda Perry
When The Linda Perry project aired on VH1, the songwriter shared how she and her wife, actress Sara Gilbert, had met, fallen in love and eventually married. Anyone who saw the show could tell Perry’s emotions were genuine and in each and every picture of the couple, that same powerful display of emotion is on display. The two were married in 2014 and welcomed their first child together, Rhodes Emilio Gilbert Perry, into their family in 2015. Why You Should Care: Gilbert has spoken candidly and publicly about her struggles with coming out as a public person. While she was able, albeit uncomfortably, to hide her relationships, coming out as engaged to Perry was her first foray into making her life truly public as it happened only a year after she came out as a part of her debut on The Talk.
8. Chely Wright & Lauren Blitzer
You can be forgiven for not actually recognizing these names but, rest assured, Wright and Blitzer should totally be on your LGBT celeb radar. Wright is an openly gay country singer and Blitzer is an LGBT activist and works in marketing at Universal. Together, they have been at the forefront of LGBT rights and even hosted the first ever GLAAD-sponsored festival in Nashville, the Concert for Love and Acceptance. Why You Should Care: As an openly gay country singer, Wright brings the message of acceptance and tolerance to a whole new audience, one which most people see as being traditionally conservative.
7. Suze Orman & Kathy Travis
Suze Orman is the financial guru who continues to draw viewers to CNBC and has become a notable economic force to be reckoned with. Her wife, Kathy Travis, is a television producer. The couple has been the focus on scandals regarding taxes and, of course, rumors about money. The couple has weathered it all and they continue to be an out and active LGBT couple, giving the traditional world of finance a face for the LGBT movement. Why You Should Care: Orman and Travis are right in the middle of the business side of the financial and entertainment world. While they aren’t traditional activists, they have taken steps to promote LGBT awareness, including an interview Orman gave to eHarmony in the wake of their scandal regarding the exclusion of LGBT members.
6. Cynthia Nixon & Christine Marinoni
Nixon is arguably best known for her role as Miranda on the HBO series Sex and the City while her wife, Christine Marinoni, has made a reputation as an education activist and the two were married in New York in 2012. Why You Should Care: Nixon didn’t come out about her sexuality until she met and fell in love with Marinoni. In an interview, she answered the question about her sexuality by saying, “I don’t really feel I’ve changed. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.” Being bisexual isn’t exactly easy and Nixon’s casual but firm approach to explaining her sexuality has given confidence to many others who are constantly asked if they’re gay or straight, depending on who there are dating or married to.
5. Beth Ditto & Kristin Ogata
Beth Ditto is the well-known singer for Gossip as well as being an avid activists for everything from LGBT rights to body positivity. Her wife, Kristin Ogata, is clearly the Yin to her Yang and has somehow managed to stay entirely out of the spotlight. The couple has, nevertheless, become one of the most well-known lesbian celebrity couples and made headlines with their own version of a double wedding. Why You Should Care: Ditto and Ogata first married in Hawaii in 2013 but had to wait another year before they could be legally wed in their home state of Oregon. In 2014, the marriage equality law was passed in their state and the two headed right down the aisle a second time, sealing the deal and making a statement in typical Ditto fashion.
4. Wanda & Alex Sykes
Wanda Sykes has been a leader in shattering stereotypes for years, rising as an internationally known comedian at a time when women in general, much less a black woman, simply weren’t seen as being funny enough to be in comedy. She and her wife were married a month before Sykes came out publically and, since then, the two have become one of the most well-known couples in the LGBT movement. Why You Should Care: Sykes came out in 2008 publicly but had already come out to her family at the age of 40. Her parents refused to attend her wedding which led to an estrangement. But, like an LGBT fairy tale, her parents have since come around and are now proud grandparents of her two children as well as accepting her wife, Alex, into their family. Their story is one that offers hope to couples who have had to sever ties with family in order to be with the one they love.
3. Melissa Etheridge & Linda Wallem
Etheridge has been out for years and has never danced around the issue of her sexuality. She came out publicly back in 1993, at a time when being gay was reason to be excluded from the military and open discrimination was the norm. Melissa Etheridge and her wife, Linda Wallem, had been friends for years before finally tying the knot in 2014. Why You Should Care: Etheridge is, hands down, the iconic face of the lesbian movement. She’s been the angsty go-to lesbian since the early 90s and finding love is proof there’s hope for all of us.
2. Ellen DeGeneres & Portia de Rossi
What list like this would be complete without Ellen and Portia? The two have had a life in the spotlight both on their own and, now as a couple. Ellen nearly lost her career – and her sanity – when she came out in 1997 but, since then, has gone positively mainstream. Her syndicated talk show, Ellen, will kick off its 13th season later this month with its first guest of the season being Caitlyn Jenner. Why You Should Care: Both Ellen and Portia nearly lost everything in the wake of coming out and Portia has publicly struggled with depression and eating disorders she says are the result of struggling with her sexuality for so long. The couple has worked to become outspoken for LGBT rights as well as being passionate about equality for all, making them a source of inspiration and strength for many.
1. Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon
Don’t recognize these names? You should. Martin and Lyon met in 1950, got together as a couple in 1952 and moved in together the following year. The founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first social and political organization in the United States focused on the lesbian community and later became the first lesbian couple to join the National Organization of Women (NOW). The two were initially married in 2004, being the first lesbian couple to take their vows when Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the San Francisco city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After their marriage was voided later that year due to Prop 8, they married again in 2008 and were, once again, the first same-sex couple to do so once the law was reversed and marriage equality was back. Why You Should Care: Martin and Lyon are the absolute epitome of love and perseverance. Meeting and falling in love in the 1950s was no small accomplishment and the two dedicated themselves to living publicly and taking their fight to the streets – literally. This landmark couple offers every LGBT couple the perfect template for how to balance public activism and personal love.
As LGBT couples walk down the rainbow colored carpet this wedding season, much of the focus has been on the fun details of a wedding – choosing gay wedding ring sets, picking out the perfect outfit and finally finally FINALLY being lawfully wed. As we celebrate, however, take a moment to appreciate the couples who came before – not only the trailblazers who effected national and global change, but also the couples who made the biggest statement by simply being together without fear or apology. Every person who came before us in this journey did their part to prove that, ultimately, love wins.