This week on ABC’s “Good Morning America” (GMA), we saw what may have been a first in LGBTQ+ television history, in an event that speaks to the general public’s support for LGBTQ+ marriage. It also highlights the power of being one’s true authentic self by simply being OUT.
This special occasion shined a light on the marriage of one of the show’s hosts. The television spot promoting the Aug. 16 televised event had all of the special bells and whistles you’d expect for such a cheerful occasion, including interview snippets showing the intended couple talking lovingly about each other. It also announced a televised bachelorette party. And this was all to celebrate a same-sex couple: anchor Robin Roberts and her fiancé Amber Laign.
Roberts started her broadcasting career in 1983, when it would essentially be a death sentence to the careers of LGBTQ+ people in media to be out. So like many, she didn’t speak about her personal life. Her relationship with Laign began as a blind date in 2005 but the couple kept their life private for a while, and only told close friends and co-workers. While her co-hosts were able to talk about their family life and share it with the American public, Roberts felt restrained and repressed for many years. Later on, Americans began to embrace marriage equality, as did corporations — including Roberts’ employer, Disney, which owns ABC. This change began a wave of LGBTQ+ on-air talent to come out publicly. That happened for Roberts in 2013.
When Roberts began her career, she likely never expected she’d be speaking on one of the most popular morning talk shows in the nation about her wedding and celebrating the occasion with her co-workers and everyone across America, as GMA has done with other hosts through the years. In so many ways, this is an indicator of the power of being out, and the personal pride each of us takes in our family lives. This is a joy we wish to share, and Roberts — who has shared her health problems on air over the years — now gets to share a very special joy with that same public that boasted her spirits during her health issues.
I don’t believe that any TV network has ever aired a bachelorette party for a same-sex couple, yet alone their own anchor. In a way, Roberts has become a pioneer in broadcasting on an issue she initially couldn’t share: her love.