LOS ANGELES (AP) – While the issue of gay marriage has received its share of television news and talk show time, it has been largely absent from TV series – until now.

Showtime’s “Queer as Folk” charges into the debate in the season’s last two episodes, in which partners Michael and Ben (Hal Sparks and Robert Gant) ponder marriage and decide it’s right for them.

But their joyful, legal Canadian wedding founders on the U.S. prohibition against same-sex unions.

The scene in Sunday’s episode (10 p.m. EDT) in which Ben proposes is superficially mundane, with familiar words of commitment and a ring. Whether the gesture is seen as promising or unsettling is up to the viewer; those involved in the show hope it’s the former.

“Michael Novotny, you are the man I’ve been looking for all my life,” college professor Ben Bruckner says. “I’m so very blessed to have found you. Which is why I am asking you to do me the honor of accepting my hand in marriage.”

Series producers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman are eager to revise attitudes toward gay marriage in America, especially as the stakes rise with proposal of a constitutional ban.

Added Cowen: “All these very large social, political, religious issues ultimately boil down to the lives of two people who want to get married. I just can’t get it into my head that two people wanting to get married, two people wanting to say “I do,’ could threaten a country.”

Cowen and Lipman, longtime personal and professional partners, have challenged society’s attitudes before, most notably in the breakthrough 1985 TV film “An Early Frost,” about AIDS.

Even with caution and not dramatic eloquence as the guiding principle, the pair managed to write an affecting, important film. Although a show on a cable channel doesn’t draw the audience of one on a network, Cowen and Lipman believe “Queer as Folk” can influence the debate.

GLAAD’s Macias notes that a network series prepared to address the subject of gay marriage, ABC’s Boston-set sitcom “It’s All Relative,” was canceled. It’s unlikely the issue will be part of another broadcast show: None deal regularly with a same-sex couple’s relationship, he said.


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