[Image: Screen capture of Ellen DeGeneres and Laura Dern in "The Puppy Episode" of Ellen, which first aired on April 30, 1997.]
Fifteen years ago tonight, the Ellen "puppy episode" -- better known as the coming-out episode -- aired.
Although today's advances for LGBT equality make the controversy of that date hard to believe, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation reminds us.
From a GLAAD news release at the time:
Following the refusal by Birmingham, Alabama ABC affiliate 33/40 to air the history-making "coming out" episode of Ellen, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Birmingham Pride Alabama (BPA) will downlink the episode via satellite to an audience of thousands of Ellen fans. Birmingham's "Official Welcome Out Ellen Party" will take place at the Boutwell Auditorium, 1930 8th Ave. N., on Wednesday, April 30th[, 1997] at 6:00 PM.
The "Welcome Out Ellen Party" was created in response to ABC 33/40 General Manager Jerry Heilman's decision to pull Ellen from his station's evening lineup. Heilman, defending a decision many civil rights experts have called censorship, told the Los Angeles Times that Ellen was "not appropriate for family viewing."
Although her show was cancelled a season later and there was initial concern about whether -- as the Entertainment Wekly cover declared -- "Yep, She's Too Gay," DeGeneres stuck it out and made her way into the hearts and homes of many more Americans over the past 15 years.
Today, of course, Ellen DeGeneres hosts a popular daytime television show and is JCPenney's latest celebrity spokesperson.
And, she tweeted today: