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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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March 25th, 2013
06:15 PM ET

TV shows, Hollywood changed America's attitudes to same-sex marriage

It was just a TV show, just a situation comedy, not even a drama, but Vice President Biden has credited "Will & Grace" with changing America's attitudes about same-sex marriage.

"When things really began to change, is when the social culture changes. I think "Will & Grace" probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody's ever done so far," the vice president said on "Meet the Press" early last year.

Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage agree - entertainment and Hollywood have been incredibly influential in the acceptance of gays and lesbians. It was through the medium of television that millions of Americans first had gays and lesbians in their living rooms. It was even fodder for the "Golden Girls." Pedro on "The Real World San Francisco" in 1994 introduced a gay man with HIV/AIDS to millions of then-teenagers. He died that year and was praised by President Clinton.

Television shows and Hollywood helped create an environment of acceptance, where more and more gays and lesbians came out of the closet, contributing to a dramatic change over the past few years. More and more Americans have friends who are gay or lesbian - a new CNN/ORC poll out today shows 57% of Americans say they have a family member or close friend who is gay. That's up 12% since just a few years ago, and almost double what it was 20 years ago.

And as those numbers have changed, so has support for same-sex marriage. Our poll shows 53% of Americans now say these marriages should be recognized as valid. That's up from 40% in 2007.

Call it the Rob Portman effect. Last week, he became the first sitting Republican senator to publicly support same-sex marriage, a change of heart he says he had after his son came out. Former Vice President Dick Cheney did the same after discovering his daughter Mary was a lesbian, putting him for years to the left of President Obama on the issue

Of course, the recent numbers prove almost half of Americans still oppose same-sex marriage, and they'll be watching just as closely this week when the Supreme Court tackles the hot-button issue for the very first time.

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