April 30, 1997
Ellen Morgan, played by Ellen DeGeneres made television history on this day when her fictional alter ego Ellen Morgan came out of the closet on her prime-time sitcom Ellen. The move made Ellen Morgan the first leading sitcom character on national television to ever announce she was a lesbian.
Over 42 million people tuned into the episode, which featured guest appearances by Laura Dern, Dwight Yoakum, Demi Moore, Billy Bob Thornton, and Oprah Winfrey. Ellen’s own coming out in real life, happened one week prior to the airing of the episode when she announced she was a lesbian on the cover of Time magazine.