While the issue of gay marriage has received its share of television news and talk show time, it has been largely absent from TV series -- until now.
Showtime's "Queer as Folk" charges into the debate in the season's last two episodes, in which partners Michael and Ben (Hal Sparks and Robert Gant) ponder marriage and decide it's right for them.
But their joyful, legal Canadian wedding founders on the U.S. prohibition against same-sex unions.
The scene in Sunday's episode in which Ben proposes is mundane, with familiar words of commitment and a ring. Whether the gesture is seen as promising or unsettling is up to the viewer; those involved in the show hope it's the former.
"Michael Novotny, you are the man I've been looking for all my life," college professor Ben Bruckner says. "I'm so very blessed to have found you. Which is why I am asking you to do me the honor of accepting my hand in marriage."
Michael, a comic book creator who's usually an optimist, is unsettled and shares his feelings with a friend, Brian (Gale Harold).
"It wasn't a story I told myself, the way straight kids did," Michael says. "That one day I'd meet that special person, and we'd fall in love and have a big wedding. For me, it was never real."
When cynical Brian derides the idea of homosexuals needing marriage or society's blessing, Michael protests: "It's also our God-given right to have everything straight people have. Because we're as much human beings as they are."
"You're a writer. Rewrite the story," Brian replies.
Series producers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman are eager to do some revision of their own on attitudes toward gay marriage in America, especially as the stakes rise with the proposal of a constitutional ban.
They created the story for this Sunday's episode (along with Shawn Postoff, who wrote the teleplay) and wrote the July 18 finale in which Michael poignantly questions whether his Canadian marriage, discounted back home in Pittsburgh, meant anything.
Stephen Macias, national entertainment media director for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD, previewed the episodes.
"I thought they dealt with the issue very well, in a way that people watching the show can relate to, straight or gay," said Macias.
Michael's entrenched view of marriage as unattainable reflects real-life gay attitudes, Lipman said. But that's changing with developments such as the Massachusetts court ruling allowing same-sex marriage and legal action in San Francisco.