‘Empire’ makes history with first gay, black wedding on primetime TV

By : MARIAH COOPER OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Above: Toby Onwumere and Jussie Smollett on ‘Empire.’ (Screenshot via YouTube)

“Empire” made history on Wednesday night by featuring the first wedding between two gay, black men on primetime television.

Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Kai (Toby Onwumere) said their “I dos” for a groundbreaking scene in the episode titled “Never Doubt I Love.”
The episode was peppered with drama as someone claimed the wedding was called off due to Kai not disclosing his HIV status. Lucious Lyon, Jamal’s father, also refused to walk Jamal down the aisle with his mother, Cookie. Lucious had struggled with having a gay son throughout the show. However, in the end Lucious decided to support Jamal and walk him down the aisle. Jamal’s close friend Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) officiated the nuptials.

The wedding also included a performance by Chaka Khan.

Onwumere explained the significance of the episode to Extra.

“The influence of Empire still extends out well beyond America and it’s culturally relevant and I really appreciate the show for that. In its fifth year, it’s still going — as evidence to the wedding that’s going on, it’s still culturally relevant, so I think it’s beautiful,” Onwumere says.“I think it’s different than what we’ve seen in past seasons of Empire, which is a breath of fresh air. I really love what Kai and Jamal have. I think it’s beautiful.”

Sidibe praised the episode on Twitter writing, “Tonight, Empire will give life to a monumental love story by marrying 2 black, gay men for the first time in television history. 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.”

Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Jussie’s sister, also wrote about the monumental episode on Instagram.

“Jussie helped make this happen. Representation matters. I am not here to debate you on Jussie’s innocence …because I know he is. But whatever your beliefs are, I implore you to watch this episode. To celebrate the purity of love that we can all identify with regardless of race, religion, gender, age or sexuality,” Smollett-Bell wrote.

This marks Smollett’s final episode of the season following an investigation by the Chicago Police Department that he allegedly staged a hate crime against himself. “Empire” writers wrote Smollett’s character out of the final two episodes. The charges were later dropped but Smollett’s future at “Empire” is still undetermined.

The cast of “Empire” penned a letter urging Smollett to be allowed back for the show’s sixth season.

“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,” the letter reads. “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… It’s our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should.”

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