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Real Housewives

Real Housewives & LGBTQ Equality: On the Right Side of History

Glenn Rowley

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With this week's historic ruling by the Supreme Court making marriage equality the nationwide law of the land, the conversation has dominated social media and the internet at large. From the beginning of the franchise, the Real Housewives have been ahead of the curve when it comes to their relationships with the LGBTQ community. Gay and lesbian individuals populate the world of Housewives in supporting roles from coast to coast, including Tamra Judge's best man Ricky Santana in the OC, Albie and Chris Manzo's roommate, Greg Bennett, in New Jersey, larger-than-life drag performer Elaine Lancaster in Miami and many, many others. From weddings and coming out stories to gay polo and marches for equality, our favorite ladies have used their platform to shed light on their gay family members, friends and fans for the last 10 years. For today's feature, here's a look back at some of the most memorable times the Housewives have stood on the right side of history. 

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  • Andy Cohen comes out during the RHONJ Season 1 reunion: There's perhaps no better place to start on this subject than with the man behind the Housewives himself, Mr. Andy Cohen. As the host of every reunion special and the executive producer of the franchise, there would simply be no Real Housewives without Andy. However, no one expected his personal life to be a part of the conversation during the first-ever reunion of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Controversy had erupted during the season when Teresa Giudice's husband Joe used the term "gaylord" during a group dance lesson. Villain Danielle Staub took offense to the term and the two went around and around about whether Joe was being homophobic. (The argument found its second wind during Season 2 when a friend of Danielle's aimed a gay slur at Caroline Manzo's son, Christopher.) During the reunion, Teresa and Danielle couldn't agree on the subject, with Teresa defending her husband and calling the expression a "figure of speech." However, as the argument continued, Andy abandoned his job as moderator to get personal. "I have no business jumping in, but I'm gay and I thought it was offensive," he said. "I'm not saying your husband's homophobic, I'm saying it was offensive."  Up to that point, Andy had never interjected during a reunion, instead staying objective and asking the questions. But in a moment of honesty, he stood up for his identity and came out as a gay man on national TV. It was a watershed moment for Andy and the Bravo network, and he remains the only gay man on late night television as the host of Watch What Happens Live.
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  • RHONY's March for Marriage Equality: The fourth season in NYC kicked off with Alex McCord inviting the other ladies to attend the seventh annual Marriage Equality Wedding March across the Brooklyn Bridge. Donning bridal gowns, the ladies took a bold stand nearly half a decade before marriage equality became legal across the U.S. Of course, the event also brought plenty of drama as Sonja Morgan - who served as the grand marshal for the march - tried to make it all about her, and bickered with Alex and her husband Simon van Kempen over who was allowed to speak at the podium. The fight spilled over into the art party Sonja was hosting later in the episode and resulted in Alex getting thrown out of the house (while sporting an unforgettably bold S&M-inspired cocktail dress). The two blondes eventually made up and put the fight behind them, with Alex pointing out the following during the Season 4 reunion: "I hate that two straight women and a straight man were squabbling, but because it was dramatic and crazy, people were thinking about marriage equality."
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  • Lisa Vanderpump receives a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars: Lisa Vanderpump, arguably the queen bee of RHOBH, has always been an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community. The British restauranteur owns gay LA hotspot Pump,  became an ordained minister in order to perform gay weddings and even puts together an annual float in the LA Pride parade with her staff at SUR, (a.k.a. the cast of Vanderpump Rules). In the just-finished Season 5 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Lisa was recognized for all her work and activism by being awarded a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. With her family and new 'Wife Lisa Rinna in tow, LVP arrived at the awards ceremony to a crowd of LGBTQ supporters decked out in her signature pink. Receiving the award from her good friend and gay former boy-bander Lance Bass, Lisa acknowledged the honor it was to provide support for the LGBTQ community throughout her lifetime and career. Of course, the ceremony also sparked a bit of drama between LVP and the rest of the 'Wives -- who were offended at being left out of the ceremony -- but it wouldn't be Housewives without an invitation being turned into a storyline, right?
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  • The NJ ladies attend Jamie Laurita's wedding: In a touching moment during Season 4 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, the Manzos, Lauritas and Giudices traveled to Chicago for the wedding of Caroline Manzo's brother Jamie and his partner Rich. Though sister Dina was missing from the festivities, the wedding was a true family affair, complete with British-style fascinators, an entrance via horse-drawn carriage and tearful, personal vows. During the ceremony, Caroline delivered a memorable and emotional speech touching on Jamie's coming out story and the "moving of mountains" it had taken for the couple to reach that point. Wishing them "love and peace forever and always," Caroline, as well as the others, showed the world what it means to truly accept and love your LGBTQ family.
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  • RHOM goes to gay polo: During Season 3 of The Real Housewives of Miami, several of the Miami ladies went to a gay polo match for a day of fabulousness and fun. With transgender model Lauren Foster along for the ride, Alexia Echevarria, Adriana de Moura, Ana Quincoces and Marysol Patton spent the polo match surrounded by bevies of boys and  even served as judges for the event's booths. Of course, gay polo conveniently coincided with Lea Black's annual charity gala, leaving Alexia stuck choosing between the self-proclaimed "Mayor of Miami's" epic fundraiser and spending the rest of the day with the 'Wives deemed the "Lea Black Victims Club." In the end, she chose the gays in the party bus over the black tie event. Gay Polo: 1, Lea Black, 0.
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  • Kyle's gay mixer: Lisa Vanderpump isn't the only Beverly Hills Housewife who supports the gay community. After the disastrous poker in Season 5, Kyle Richards tried to lighten the mood by throwing a gay mixer for all the "dinner party gays" in her life who didn't want to wade into the club circuit in search of true love. The party started out a smashing success, with all the 'Wives bringing their GBFs to help solve the "drought of tops in Beverly Hills." However, while some love connections were made between the ladies' gay friends, the fun event was overshadowed by the escalating drama between Kyle and nemesis Brandi Glanville. When the latter showed up to the party uninvited on the arm of Kyle's sister Kim, the mixer devolved into a screaming match between the three with Kyle accusing Brandi of driving a wedge between the Richards sisters. The episode stirred up even more controversy after aired due to the 'Wives' constant use of the possessive (and degrading) term "my gays." Andy Cohen even brought the issue up on WWHL, educating the ladies and viewers on why the figure of speech was just not OK. (Note to our dear straight female friends: you don't own us.) Despite the drama, Kyle's intentions were certainly in the right place. After all, who doesn't need a little help finding a good top these days?
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  • NeNe rides in the LA Pride parade: By Season 5 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, OG Housewife and fan favorite NeNe Leakes had reached an unprecedented  level of success. Thanks to roles in the Ryan Murphy sitcoms Glee and The New Normal, NeNe had begun a new chapter in her career as a burgeoning star of the silver screen. Connecting with her legions of gay fans, NeNe rode in the LA Pride parade to promote The New Normal. Showering the parade-goers with love, NeNe credited the gay community with "inventing everything": from weaves and nail polish to how to walk. While she may be confusing the LGBTQ community at large with drag culture - calling the gays "half-man/half-lady" wasn't the most accurate or politically correct move - it's always nice to be appreciated? Either way, NeNe remains somewhat of an icon among the gay community. BLOOP!
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  • Rosie Pierri's journey to acceptance on RHONJPerhaps the most prominent member of the LGBTQ community in the Housewives franchise - Andy notwithstanding, of course - is Rosie Pierri. When Teresa's cousin Kathy Wakile joined RHONJ as a Housewife in Season 3, she brought her entire family to our screens - including her younger Rosie, who happened to be a lesbian. Though it wasn't directly mentioned during Kathy's first season on the show, Rosie's sexual orientation became much more of a focus during Season 4, as she came out to her niece and nephew and opened up to Kathy about her difficult journey in accepting her identity. The unreserved acceptance of Rosie by the Wakiles, Gorgas and Giudices showed once again how the ladies of New Jersey were miles ahead of public opinion on LGBTQ issues. Since her coming out on the show, we've continued to see Rosie explore her identity in each subsequent season: going to clubs with Joe and Melissa Gorga as her wingmen, dating women and even bringing her girlfriend to family dinners.
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It's no secret that the Real Housewives hold a special place in both gay and pop culture. There's no denying the influence the Bravo network and its programming has had on LGBTQ attitudes over the last 10+ years for the better. The Real Housewives franchise has helped usher in greater acceptance of the gay community by showing LGBTQ individuals as real people who hold important places in the lives of the ladies we love. Recently, Andy Cohen was asked in an interview why Bravo doesn't have a show featuring a predominantly gay cast, a la its past efforts like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. His simple answer was that, in 2015, it would be reductive to "ghettoize gay guys" and that Bravo has gay people on almost every show in the network's schedule. In the years to come, we can almost certainly look forward to the Real Housewives continuing to have a positive impact on LGBTQ acceptance and equality simply by fully accepting gay people into their lives as friends, family and loved ones. So thank you, Housewives. As we celebrate this moment in American history, we recognize your small part in helping us get here.

What's your favorite LGBTQ moment in Housewives history? Tell me in the comments below!