Ellen DeGeneres is a likable, gifted, comedienne who, as nearly everyone must now be aware, recently “came out of the closet” as a lesbian. So did Ellen Morgan, the character Ms. DeGeneres plays on her ABC sitcom, “Ellen,” in a much ballyhooed special one-hour episode aired on ABC and CTV April 30.

I usually shun sitcoms, but occasionally I used to watch “Ellen.” Ms. DeGeneres can be genuinely funny, given decent material to work with. However, I soon tired of the monotonous, single-entendŕe, sex japes that seem to obsess “Ellen’s” writers, half of whom are reportedly homosexual. I stopped watching.

Cut to April 30, 1997. In the interest of research, I decided to watch the controversial “coming out” episode. For the benefit of those who didn’t, it was pretty tame stuff by recent prime time standards.

Ellen Morgan befriends a woman named Susan (Laura Dern), who is in town on business. Susan reveals that she is a lesbian, and says she is picking up “gay vibes” from Ellen. Ellen flees into the arms of Susan’s business associate, Richard, attempts a clumsy seduction, and later brags to her gutter-minded gaggle of friends about her alleged one-night stand.

Feeling guilty about the deception, she decides to consult a therapist (Oprah Winfrey), who “helps” her acknowledge her latent homosexuality. Ellen “comes out,” first to Susan, then to her friends. Her crush on Susan, who is in a “long-term relationship” with another woman, goes unrequited. That’s it. Aside from its significance as a “cultural milestone”, the episode was a yawner.

What’s the fuss?

So what’s all the fuss about, you might ask? You can watch much more prurient stuff on TV any afternoon or evening. Lesbianism has already been visited more explicitly in prime time when Roseanne whatever-her-name-is-this –week kissed Mariel Hemingway, and in a 1995 “Star Trek, Deep Space 9” episode which also featured a lesbian kiss. Token gays are cropping up like mushrooms on sitcoms and dramas alike, as liberal Hollywood earnestly pursues its gay-advocacy agenda.

Several ABC affiliates in the Southern U.S. refused to broadcast the show, and a Baptist pastor in Beaumont, Texas, bought up all local advertising time on the April 30 episode to air the Biblical position on homosexuality. Predictably, gay-rights advocates and liberals in general have been scornful of what they term “corporate cowardice,” and “religious right hatred.”

Not so, says author and cultural Valkyrie Camille Paglis, a self-avowed lesbian, who told Time magazine that “People on the left have got to accept that it is not simply bigotry that causes believing Christians to object to this kind of element in popular culture.”

Weekly Standard editor/publisher William Kristol noted that “there is so much that Hollywood already does that is bad for kids that this is just a drop in the ocean. What is most amazing is the false courageousness of it…A really courageous act would bee if (Ellen) were to come out as a Republican or a pro-life Christian.”

Disney, which owns both ABC and “Ellen’s” producer, Touchstone Television, has the largest lesbian and gay employees organization in the entertainment industry,” according to the cover story “Disney Comes Out of the Closet,” in the May, 1995 issue of Buzz magazine. Disney training coordinator Jimi Ziehr told Buzz that at Disney’s EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida, “gays outnumber the straights at Futureland operations.”

At the 16-million member Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June 19996, 13,000 delegates voted to threaten a boycott of Disney for “promoting homosexuality.” That same month, homosexual activists hosted the sixth annual gay and lesbian day at Florida’s Walt Disney World, complete with a pink Mickey Mouse. Disney also hired avowed lesbian Lauren Lloyd for the specific purpose of developing female and lesbian movies.

As one editor noted, “Disney is teaching people to be uncomfortable about being male, straight, Christian, or European. Why should you choose to spend money on immoral products that come from a company that despises everything you believe in?” Good question.