Jesse Tyler Ferguson: How ‘Modern Family’ Helped Change Perceptions on Gay Couples

Jesse Tyler Ferguson stars in ABC’s “Modern Family.” In September 2012, he and Justin Mikita started Tie the Knot, and the two married in 2013.

“Modern Family” is a game-changer, isn’t it?

I love the show so much. In the pilot, you’re meeting Mitch and Cam when they’re becoming fathers for the first time. And that’s the most interesting thing about them; their gayness is about sixth on the list of their qualities. They’re fathers, they’re sons, they’re a lawyer and a teacher — they’re also gay, but the series does not lead with that. That was progressive and bold, even though it shouldn’t be. “Modern Family” has become a pop-culture touchstone, an easy and safe way to expose audiences to many different relationships in a way that doesn’t feel threatening.

And the characters have built over the years …

Last season, having Mitch and Cam get married, but having Jay (Mitch’s father) not be OK with it — that was so smart. I was really impressed that in the sixth season, the writers could still do some thing that felt energized and electric with these characters.

What’s next after the Supreme Court decision?

We know from other civil-rights movements, people’s attitudes don’t change overnight. There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of helping to change perception. I think the hardest work is with kids, to remind the next generation that we have to make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity. I’m encouraged because many kids are already like “What’s the big deal?” It’s also important to hear other points of view, to hear from people who are not supportive. That invigorates the conversation. My advice to anyone is patience, understanding and a light touch. You get a lot further when you hear someone’s opinions and talk about it.

What exactly is Tie the Knot?

It’s a fun and quirky way to support LGBT rights. When we started in 2012, there were only seven states with marriage equality. Since then, the ball has started rolling faster — though we’re not taking credit for that! We love our partnership with the Tie Bar (which sells the ties online), and we want to continue. We’re raising great money, and sort of shifting our mission statement. We’re trying to evolve into an LGBT outreach program and continue with civil rights. We want to continue supporting organizations in the trenches, doing hard work. There’s always more work to be done.

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