Remembering Michael Constantine and Marriage Equality on TV

I don’t really remember much about Michael Constantine, but one vivid memory is worth relating.

When I was a kid, I saw him on some episodes of Room 222, which played in reruns on Baltimore’s Channel 45, and which I could see from Bethesda only when the wind blew our aerial antenna in that direction. (The antenna was supposed to be operated remotely from our living room, but the dial busted, and we were left at the mercy of the wind when my dad balked at paying to repair it.)

But I remember him mostly, and more vividly, from Sirota’s Court, a sitcom that ran for thirteen weeks from late 1976 to early 1977, which I watched when I had decided to be a lawyer, and I thought watching lawyer shows was good preparation. That year, I believe, I also enjoyed Kaz, Eddie Capra and The Paper Chase. So I was pretty much all set.

Sirota’s Court was notable for airing the first TV episode about marriage equality that I had ever seen, and possibly the first episode on that subject ever shown on a network program.

On the show, two young men appear in court and ask Judge Sirota to marry them.

I watched this show during its initial run, and I have not seen it since. I remember the judge agonizing over his decision. It was an especially memorable episode for me, because the issue was not played strictly for laughs, it was treated with the gravity that it deserved, and I really had never seen something like that on television before.

I don’t remember how it ended, but Wikipedia and other online sources say that the judge performed the marriage ceremony, which would have made legal history if it weren’t fiction (and television history, if anyone were watching).

So Michael Constantine officiated over the very first gay marriage on television. I don’t know anything about his politics, but it seems to me that the show would not have aired without his agreement.


— Steven S. Drachman


Steven S. Drachman is the author of Watt O’Hugh and the Innocent Dead, which is available in trade paperback from your favorite local independent bookstore, from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and on Kindle.