LGBTQ history was made on television last night, though it’s shadowed by real-life events.

This past Wednesday (April 24), fans of Empire witnessed the first black gay wedding on primetime television. The episode titled “Never Doubt I Love” showed popular character Jamal, played by the controversial Jussie Smollett, and his fiancé Kai, played by Sense8’s Toby Onwumere, getting married.

As noted by fellow Empire star Gabourey Sidibe, this scene was very important.

“Tonight, #Empire will give life to a monumental love story by marrying 2 black, gay men for the first time in television history,” wrote Sidibe in the below tweet. “Please join us in celebration until it’s no longer a phenomenon to see 2 people of the same sex and race love each other proudly, on prime time TV.”

In addition, Sidibe commented on just why the moment was so great.

“Well for young LGBTQ members of color who grow up feeling like they’ll never have love and romance, or that life long partnership isn’t in the cards for them, seeing a representation of love and normalcy in bodies and families that look like their own, in media is important.”

The two characters made history by recited their vows and even jumped the broom. While popular series Noah’s Arc depicted a similar black gay wedding, it was done through a separate film titled Noah’s Arc: Jumping The Broom.

That said, the Empire moment does have the unfortunate side of involving Jussie Smollett, who is still wrapped in controversy. This episode was actually the last one involving Smollett, as his character was written out of the season’s remaining two episodes. The character’s honeymoon is then used as an excuse to explain his absence.

Right now, there is no word on whether Smollett will return for another season of the FOX series. But, it looks like he has the full support of his fellow cast mates. They sent a letter to network executives yesterday asking that Smollett be allowed back on the show. You can read that full letter below.

Dear Charlie, Dana, Michael, Lee, Danny, Francie, Brian, Sanaa, Dennis, and Brett,

Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire.

We understand the past months have been difficult to process—sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal. Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character. He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.

Jussie has shown us on and off the set who he really is as a leader. In addition to being a caring friend and cast member who treats every crew member with love and respect, he has spent time with our families and individually supported each of us. These recent and detailed letters from The Black AIDS Institute, the Rainbow Push Coalition and the City Lights Orchestra shine a light on his commitment to true community service. Just a few months ago, Jussie partnered with the Trevor Project to provide support to their volunteer program that allows LGBTQ youth in crisis access to vital counseling services. Prior to that, he gave every cent from his sold out world tour to numerous charities. He has adopted a school in Chicago, taught songwriting to incarcerated youth at the Cook County Jail last year and bought the family of Kayden Kinckle, a six-year-old, double amputee, a wheelchair accessible van due to his school district not having a wheelchair accessible school bus. He has traveled to South Africa for service as well as to Jamaica to quietly meet about the safety of LGBTQ youth. This was all done without posturing, the need for attention or even discussion.

This is the Jussie we know.

It’s clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust.

It is why now, more than ever, we must stand together as a family. A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life. We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our “Jamal” back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will.

That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward. Thank you for taking time to hear us. It’s our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should.

SINCERELY,

Terrence Howard
Taraji P Henson
Bryshere Y. Gray
Trai Byers
Gabourey Sidibe
Nicole Ari Parker

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