LGBTQ couples have slowly over the years become the leads in many shows, seen first in hits such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and "Six Feet Under.” These introductions continued in TV comedies and dramas throughout the next few decades. From Santana and Brittany of “Glee” to Ian and Mickey from “Shameless," here are 11 of TV's greatest LGBTQ couples.
Ian and Mickey, “Shameless” (2011-2021)
Each of the Gallagher siblings had several romantic relationships, but it was Ian Gallagher’s (Cameron Monaghan) on-again-off-again relationship with Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher) that captured the heart of “Shameless” audiences over the show’s decade-long run. The tough couple fight off the community’s homophobia, abusive families and mental health struggles. As the couple navigates their relationship on the South Side of Chicago, they evolve as a couple and depict the lesser-seen and different types of LGBTQ relationships.
“Shameless” is streaming on Netflix.
Dani and Jamie, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (2020)
Netflix’s retelling of Henry James’ 1898 novella “The Turn of the Screw,” adapts the horror gothic tale to include its main character, Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) in a lesbian relationship with the haunted grounds of Bly Manor's gardener, Jamie Taylor (Amelia Eve). Dani and Jamie navigate the grounds and while their romance slowly develops the two form a connection and experience a fate that eventually breaks the audience’s hearts.
“The Haunting of Bly Manor” is streaming on Netflix.
David and Patrick, “Schitt’s Creek” (2015-2020)
David Rose’s (Dan Levy) LGBTQ identity was referenced throughout the series, mostly in part because of his notable line, “I like the wine and not the label," seen in Season 1’s “Honeymoon.” David’s romantic pursuits end with his relationship and marriage to Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid). Although not the first sitcom LGBTQ couple, David and Patrick touched audiences through their developing relationship. As Patrick gets more comfortable with his sexuality, David becomes more comfortable with their relationship, leading to the two into marriage.
“Schitt’s Creek” is streaming on Netflix and Hulu.
Santana and Brittany, “Glee” (2009-2015)
Cheerleaders and glee club members, Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) and Brittany S. Pears' (Heather Morris) relationship began just as friends and the sidekicks of Quinn Fabray (Diana Argon). Not quite the couple you’d think, quick-witted Santana and ditzy Brittany, evolve from friends to wives by “Glee’s” conclusion. While the McKinley High glee club members rotated romantic partners, Brittany and Santana’s relationship created one of “Glee’s” largest pop-culture legacies. After the passing of Rivera in 2020, fans of the show expressed admiration and affection for the couple’s depiction of lesbian representation on the Emmy-winning show.
“Glee” is streaming on Hulu and Disney+.
Ray and Kevin, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (2013-2021)
Workplace comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is celebrated for its ensemble. However, it's Andre Braugher’s character, Captain Ray Holt, and his on-screen husband Kevin Cozner (Marc Evan Jackson) that stand out as one of the best couples on the show (and this list). Ray and Kevin’s marriage and sexualities, unlike the previously mentioned couples, are not a plot device for the show. Instead they are a minor detail about the characters. Stoic Ray and straight-laced Kevin exemplify the comedy within serious characters and depict a steady LGBTQ relationship for its large fanbase.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is streaming on Hulu and Peacock.
The WB, UPN
Willow and Tara, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)
As one of the first teen lesbian relationships on TV, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer's," Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara Maclay (Amber Benson) laid the groundwork for future LGBTQ couples on TV. Similar to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s” Ray and Kevin, Willow and Tara were just another couple on screen. Their relationship, although a groundbreaking slow burn, was created for character development rather than ratings. As one of the first lesbian relationships on mainstream TV, this respectful depiction of a lesbian relationship didn’t occur until 2001, through the simplicity of Tara and Willow’s love affair.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Angel and Papi, “Pose” (2018-2021)
Another Ryan Murphy-created show on this list along with "Glee." Angel Evangelista (Indya Moore) and Papi Martinez (Angel Bismark Curiel) show the growth of LGBTQ representation within the industry, standing as the only couple on this list that is not in a same-sex relationship. Angel, a transgender woman in a relationship with cisgender man Papi, highlights the strides entertainment has made in recent years. Fans of “Pose” fell in love with Angel and Papi’s love story that officially begins in Season 2 and continues with a wedding in Season 3. Angel and Papi begin as friends and eventual husband and wife. From their contentious introduction to their all-consuming love, this LGBTQ couple further contributed to the LGBTQ TV canon.
“Pose” is streaming on Hulu and Netflix.
Mitch and Cam, “Modern Family” (2009-2020)
While “Modern Family” is matched for longevity by “Shameless” with 11 seasons, ABC attracted a broader audience with its pilot’s immediate introduction to a loving gay couple. Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron Tucker's (Eric Stonestreet) relationship entered ABC’s primetime time slot normalizing LGBTQ characters as leads on the hit network sitcom. Although Mitch and Cam are radically different from each other, their dynamic mirrored the formulaic sitcom relationships, depicting the classic couple that bickers and makes up. Throughout the show’s run, advancements in the LGBTQ community happened off-screen that were tied into “Modern Family’s” evolving plot lines — the ensemble’s reaction to the Supreme Court marriage equality decision was the premise of the fifth season premiere, highlighting how Mitch and Cam’s trajectory mirrored that of the gay community during the show’s run.
“Modern Family” is streaming on Hulu, Peacock and Disney+.
Callie and Arizona, “Grey’s Anatomy”(2005-Present)
Although no longer together, Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) still earn a spot on this list. From Seasons 5 to 11, Callie and Arizona explore their workplace romance. Similar to "Glee," part of “Grey’s Anatomy’s” appeal is the ensemble’s exchange of romantic partners. Beginning with Callie’s brief marriage to George O’Malley (T. R. Knight), and quick rendezvous with Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), which results in the birth of her daughter Sofia -- ultimately leading to her roller-coaster romance with Arizona. Callie’s bisexual identity provides a revolutionary element to "Grey’s," but it’s her relationship with Arizona that stands as one of the fans’ favorites.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is streaming on Hulu and Netflix.
David and Keith, ”Six Feet Under"(2001-2005)
As one the first interracial gay couples on screen, David Fisher (Michael C. Hall) and Keith Charles (Matthew St. Patrick), provided a glimpse into the LGBTQ community at the turn of the century. While not the first LGBTQ couple on screen, nor that year (see “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), David as one of the main characters of “Six Feet Under” provided a spotlight on the realistic obstacles of LGBTQ interracial relationships. Though David and Keith shed light on the difficulties of relationships, they still depicted a loving relationship that audiences still fondly look back on.
“Six Feet Under” is streaming on HBO Max.
Ola and Lily, “Sex Education” (2019-Present)
Neither the main couple of “Sex Education,” nor the secondary couple, it’s the relationship between Ola Nyman (Patricia Allison) and Lily Iglehart (Tanya Reynolds) that outshines the leading players. After the introduction to Ola and her short-lived romance with Otis, Ola and Lily start dating by Season 2’s seventh episode. The two girls then date, break up and reunite throughout Season 3, and their relationship wins the hearts of viewers because of just how eccentric it is. While both girls are exploring their sexualities, they do so together while exploring their partner’s interests. Although the fate of the two remains unknown, their relationship stole the latest season.