Nightly News   |  March 26, 2013

TV’s impact on the gay marriage debate

Thanks in part to shows such as ‘Modern Family,’ a majority of Americans are now in favor of same-sex marriage, up from just 30 percent in 2004 – it’s a large rise in support, but it still means nearly half of Americans oppose it. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> we mentioned here tonight, public opinion toward same sex marriage has been changing so fast. almost moving one percentage point a year lately in a lot of the polls. most americans now say they have a gay friend or family member. some of the change is generational and then there's our media culture. that side of the story tonight from nbc 's kristen dahlgren in los angeles .

>> reporter: when ellen degeneres came out in 1997 --

>> gay woman in aisle 5.

>> reporter: it was front page news. "will & grace" soon brought gay men into living rooms week after week.

>> you still want to marry me?

>> over and over and over.

>> reporter: fast forward to what's considered a modern family, and one of the most popular shows on tv.

>> our game nights on saturday, they're epic.

>> reporter: over the years, television has changed the conversation about american sexuality . and what happens in hollywood doesn't stay there. as shows created an era of acceptance, more and more real men and women came out of the closet. meaning more and more americans now personally know someone who's gay.

>> the combination of knowing gay people personally and knowing gay people through the media, are convincing people that gay people are people, they have lives, they have loves, they have families.

>> reporter: in a recent nbc poll, for the first time, a majority, 51% of americans are now in favor of same sex marriage. up from just 30% in 2004 . last week, republican senator rob portman publicly supported same sex marriage after his son came out. of course, nearly half of americans still oppose it.

>> maybe that's the way i was brought up, a marriage is an institution that's between a man and a woman.

>> reporter: leaving opponents now watching just as closely as christine hershey and suzie van horn . partners for 33 years and parents to chris.

>> despite strong conservative opposition --

>> reporter: like many, now waiting to see what happens in the supreme court and the court of public opinion . kristen dahlgren, nbc news los angeles .