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15 Lesbian Moms on TV Who Paved The Way for 'The Fosters'

15 Lesbian Moms on TV Who Paved The Way for 'The Fosters'

When audiences meet Lena and Stef, the titular, loving lesbian moms leading ABC Family's newest drama, The Fosters, they're certain to find compelling, realistic portrayals of modern, multitalented women working together to support their family.

When audiences meet Lena and Stef, the titular, loving lesbian moms leading ABC Family's newest drama, The Fosters, they're certain to find compelling, realistic portrayals of modern, multitalented women working together to support their family. Sheri Saum and Teri Polo, who play Lena and Stef respectively, have both said they're excited for the show's debut tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern, and eager to bring a "new kind of family" to American television screens. And while a biracial, married lesbian couple raising a family full of teenagers — both adopted, fostered, and biological — might be news to the basic cable lineup, Stef and Lena are far from the first pair of lesbian moms to make their way into America's collective living room.

Read on to meet 15 of our favorite out TV mothers who've helped raise visibility and make a primetime drama starring an interracial family headed by lesbian moms a feasible reality in 2013. 

Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman) and Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals) – The L Word


After many break-ups, much sperm donor drama and a miscarriage, The L Word’s premiere couple Bette and Tina became the proud parents of a daughter. During the final season of the show, the couple decided to adopt using a surrogate, but they were left brokenhearted when the surrogate never showed up to go through with the adoption process. The heartache that Beals and Holloman portrayed so successfully during their run on the hit show left many touched, and finally fully aware of the sometimes painful and disappointing process that lesbians endure in the hopes of expanding their families.  

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Melanie Marcus (Michelle Clunie) and Lindsay Peterson (Thea Gill)Queer As Folk


Although Showtime's groundbreaking series Queer As Folk largely focused on its central gay male characters, lesbian couple Melanie and Lindsay played pivotal roles in each of the show's five seasons. Queer As Folk, based of a British drama of the same name, was the first hour-long program on American television to focus exclusively, and in-depth, on the lives of gay men and lesbians. Throughout the show's run, viewers saw both Melanie and Lindsay get pregnant and have children — fathered by leads Brian Kinney (Gale Harold) and Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks), respectively — navigate paternity issues, cheating drama and its resultant breakups, make-ups, the death of friends, and finally, reluctantly, legally tie the knot. After enduring political, economic, and social discrimination in Philadelphia, Melanie and Lindsay eventually announce their impending move to Canada, to pursue the life they imagined for their son and daughter. 

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Shakima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) and her partner Cheryl The Wire


HBO’s hit show, one of the all-time best cop series on TV, followed a revolving team of police detectives, drug dealers, and other criminals and law enforcement types. Chief of among them is Shakima ("Kima" to her friends) Greggs, a Baltimore detective who dealt with an unsteady relationship, alcohol abuse, and infidelity. Greggs struggles with her home life and her partner’s needs, like all the male cops of TV history, and in season two, Kima reluctantly agrees to have a baby with Cheryl. By season three, she’s unhappy and cheating, and by season five, she’s trying to reconcile with both Cheryl and her son Elijah. She’s no mother of the year, but like all the characters on The Wire, Greggs feels more real than you can imagine from a TV character. Perhaps that's because this isn't Sohn's first time playing lesbian on screen — she also starred in the critically acclaimed lesbian film Work.

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Helena Peabody(Rachel Shelley)  – The L Word


The rich and beautiful heiress first came on the scene during the second season of The L Word. Powerful and compelling, Helena’s story suffered a long spiral that landed her in the big house for the better part of a season. But despite her misgivings, Helena loved her children with her ex-partner more than anything. 

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Beverly (Estelle Parsons) –  Roseanne


Conservative traditionalist Beverly, Roseanne's shrill mom on the comedy maven's eponymous sitcom, came out in the show's final season — except she didn't. In the end, Roseanne reveals that the big fictional twists she put on her family when the show went a little off-the-rails during the last season (remember when they won the lottery, and Dan died?!) was actually a play on Roseanne's sister Jackie coming out as a lesbian. 

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Carol (Jane Sibbett) and Susan (Jessica Hecht) — Friends


Friends was a fresh, ribald comedy from its inception, and the biggest example were the lesbian moms featured in the 1994 pilot. In the first season, nerdy Ross (David Schwimmer) dealt with his beloved ex-wife Carol (played in the pilot by Anita Barone, but in the series as Jane Sibbett) giving birth to his child, even though she previously left him for the abrasive Susan (Jessica Hecht). Carol, Susan, and Ross co-parented their son, Ben, though he lived with his moms. While Susan was often brusque with Ross, she was warm and loving to Ben, as was the angelic Carol. The fictional couple, based on friends of series creators Marta Kaufman and David Crane, married in 1996 — a watershed moment for television that was treated nonchalantly by the ahead-of-the-curve Friends writers.

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Bianca Montgomery (Eden Riegel) — All My Children


Eden Riegel made history on All My Children when her character, Bianca Montgomery, married her lover, Reese Williams, in the first legal same-sex marriage on daytime television. The event made her character so iconic that the producers found it impossible to recast. Riegel made it clear in a recent interview with SheWired that she is proud to represent lesbians on daytime TV. In February, Riegel announced that she will be reprising her role in the latest continuation of the show, Prospect Park.

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Pam (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Susan (Michaela Watkins) Modern Family


Fans of America's favorite gay family — Modern Family's Mitch, Cam, and Lily — first met Cam's archnemesis, lesbian mom Pam, in season three when Lily got into a playground scuffle with Pam (Bridesmaids scene-stealer Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Susan's (played by SNL alum Michaela Watkins) son, drawing the gay dads and lesbian moms to a standoff on the sand. The tension between the gay parents could be felt through the TV screen, and it seemed unlikely that there would be any future playmates for the gaybies. But in season four, Pam returns — without her partner in tow — as a contractor hired by Mitch and Claire as the unlikely team collaborating to flip a house. 

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Phyllis Kroll (Cybill Shepherd)  – The L Word


TV legend Cybill Shepherd played late bloomer Phyllis Kroll, who comes out after a long marriage during the fourth season of The L Word. Phyllis engaged in a short, torrid affair with series fave Alice (Leisha Hailey), before coming out to her husband and children. Shepherd’s real-life daughter Clementine Ford played her on-screen daughter Molly, who then fell for the L Word’s lovable lothario Shane. So many layers...

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Colleen Donaghy (Elaine Stritch) 30 Rock


Colleen Donaghy was the overbearing and demanding mother of Alec Baldwin's ever-power-hungry CEO Jack on 30 Rock. It's only after Colleen dies that we discover that she has been in a happy lesbian relationship, unbeknownst to her son. Colleen and her partner were shacking up in a retirement community where they were not only out, but loved by their friends. After the discovery, Jack discovers  a new-found appreciation for his mother, drawing viewers to the series finale to get the full breadth of Jack's transformation. Colleen wasn't even Stritch's first lesbian character, though. In the cult film Who Killed Teddy Bear, Stritch played a lesbian proprietor of a bar.

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Nora (Anne Ramsay) and Anne (Molly Ringwald)The Secret Life of the American Teenager


Mock the show all you want, hipsters, but what started out as a show about Amy, a good girl who gets knocked up by bad boy Ricky while still in high school, turned into so much more when Anne Ramsay entered the cast and Molly  Ringwald’s character got more than just one major arc. Ringwald plays Anne, Amy’s mother, who in the course of several seasons has a baby at 40, divorces her husband, gets a career, and — presto — comes out as a lesbian. Throughout, she’s still a well-meaning mom; a Carol Brady for the Millennial generation who’s willing to talk to her kids about real life. She gets some advice herself from Nora, Ricky’s birth mom, who is lesbian in recovery — a role that’s unique not just to ABC Family but to TV itself.

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Evelyn (Holland Taylor) —Two and a Half Men


She’s the sultry octogenarian mother to oversexed and sexist Charlie, and his undersexed and slightly more moral brother Alan. Evelyn’s always had a healthy sex drive — she almost married a grifter, has been seen in both S/M gear and cosplay outfits, and talks often about her conquests. But in 2012, Evelyn got in bed and moved in with another woman — a Midwestern mom played by Georgia Engel, best known as Georgette on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and more recently as Mamie on Hot in Cleveland.

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Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw)Grey's Anatomy


Grey’s Anatomy’s adorable lady doc couple Callie and Arizona — a.k.a Calzona —  have survived breakups, car crashes, plane crashes, lost limbs, and a musical episode. There’s no telling yet if they’ll weather Arizona’s infidelity, but one thing’s for sure, the love their baby Sofia — the daughter Callie had after she became pregnant with Mark’s baby while Arizona had dumped her to take off to Africa to care for the "tiny humans." Yeah, it’s complicated, but we wouldn’t have them any other way. 

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Bonnie, Elliot's mom (Rosie O’Donnell)Will & Grace


Will and Grace’s deliciously over-the-top Jack (Sean Hayes) discovered he had fathered a child from a deposit he’d made at a sperm bank 12 years before. Things got dicey when Jack bleached young Elliot’s hair blond without his mom’s permission. Out entertainer and a mom to five kids, Rosie O’Donnell, played Elliot’s mom Bonnie, a lesbian who was concerned that Jack was putting her son at risk by being so openly gay. She forbade Jack to see Elliot, but eventually things worked out, as they tend to do in the sitcom world. 

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Swoosie Kurtz and Blythe Danner (pictured, later replaced by Judith Light)Nurse Jackie


Nurse Jackie’s Dr. Fitch Cooper (Peter Facinelli), the show’s narcissistic — if not lovable— jackass, became so much more endearing when it was revealed in the first season that he had lesbian moms, played by Swoosie Kurtz and Blythe Danner. Coop’s moms returned a few seasons later with Judith Light in for Danner, who was shooting a film, to inform him of the thing no kid – even a grown one — wants to hear. They were getting a divorce. 

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Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum)The Fosters


Police officer Stef and school administrator Lena are the parents of a thoroughly modern family: Stef’s biological son from a previous marriage, adopted boy-and-girl twins who first came into the family as foster children, and a troubled teen girl just out of juvie, a “temporary” foster placement who may end up staying a while. The two moms are smart, attractive, devoted spouses, and dedicated parents, yet recognizably human as they deal with all the challenges their blended family brings.

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