Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar has long used her Cartoon Network series as a means of supporting more inclusive storytelling, and she did it again Wednesday night with the July 4th episode. Capping off a five-episode Heart of the Crystal Gems story arc, “The Question” commenced with a same-sex marriage proposal between Ruby and Sapphire.
“The all new Steven Universe episodes this week were years in the making, please, PLEASE do not miss these,” Sugar had tweeted in advance.
Over the course of this story, Rose Quartz was revealed to be the still-alive Pink Diamond, who’s been leading an invasion plot against Earth. Ruby and Sapphire had merged to form the warrior Garnet, but they split after this reveal. Ruby goes off to be alone and pursue a Western-style life.
Though she seems happy to Steven, Ruby reveals she can’t be truly happy without Sapphire. So she rides back and asks Sapphire to marry her. “This way we can be together even when we’re apart,” Ruby says.
“We absolutely must tell LGBTQ+ children that they belong in this world and they deserve to be loved,” Sugar wrote to EW in an email. “We cannot wait until a child grows up to tell them they deserve to exist and that their story matters. I am overwhelmed with emotion thinking of the years of tireless work from all of us on the crew leading up to this moment.”
It’s rare to see such openly queer depictions on children’s cartoons. Though it played in the background of the episode “Just Friends,” Disney XD’s first gay kiss aired on Star vs. the Forces of Evil, the same show that gave us a male Disney princess — because “he can be a princess if he wants to!”
Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra concluded with a major hint that Korra and Asami were in a same-sex relationship. This was later confirmed by the show’s creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and further explored in the ensuing comics.
The network even celebrated the end of Pride Month in June with a photo of Korrasami kissing. “We’re proud to celebrate one of our favorite LGBTQ couples this #PrideMonth, Korrasami!” read a tweet.
Sugar continues to break barriers on what’s considered acceptable programming. The same-sex proposal follows multiple instances of LGBTQ representation for Steven Universe, including an emotionally charged dance performance from the character Pearl.
This article has been updated with comments from Sugar.