Last summer, when Chuck Lorre announced there would be a same-sex marriage on the final season of his long-running CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, a predictable uproar ensued. The problem was that the union involved two heterosexual men—original co-star Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen’s replacement, Ashton Kutcher—undergoing what Lorre openly called a “scam” marriage in order to adopt a child, a process the show suggested was next to impossible for a straight, single man, even a billionaire like Kutcher’s character, Walden Schmidt.
Although the show has generally taken the low road in its 12 years on the air, Lorre made an effort to avoid offense with this storyline—by Two and a Half Men standards at least. As when the show introduced a lesbian character in 2013 and when it explored a transsexual storyline that same year, the writers for the most part avoided the kind of cheap humor that permeates the rest of the show. When Walden proposed to Cryer’s Alan Harper back in November, he told him he had “nine of the 10 things” he wanted in a wife. However, the 10th ingredient was off the table: “We will actually be a same-sex married couple, and like most married couples, we will not have sex,” Walden told Alan.
“Sensitive for Two and a Half Men” doesn’t quite equal sensitive, of course. Many viewers felt the storyline desexualized gay love and trivialized the struggle for marriage equality—and having lesbian character Jenny voice those precise objections didn’t remove the sting. So, last week, when I had a chance to talk to Chuck Lorre during an event at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, I asked him how the creative team had decided to explore this theme.
Same-sex marriage is “now legal—and appropriately so,” he told me. “And there’s nothing in the marriage contract that dictates physical love. Two people declare their love for each other; everything else is nobody’s business. … They just say, ‘We love each other. We want to share our lives together. End of story.’ That seemed like a great starting point.”
Lorre denied they ever intended to be disrespectful. “We all believe that people should have the freedom to marry who they love, but there is that wonderful wrinkle. … It’s a new era we’re living in, and we got a chance to play with that,” he said.
Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!—for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.