“Ellen DeGeneres behaved like any top star at last week’s Finding Dory world premiere, goofing for photographers and taking selfies with fans. But when DeGeneres walked hand-in-hand on the blue carpet with Portia de Rossi, her wife of nearly eight years, it made a clear statement about the star’s powerful social impact and the acceptance of same-sex couples.
“I do know what it means — I am aware of that, and it’s great,” says DeGeneres, 58, discussing the moment the next day. “Whatever I can do to help change things in a way that I think is better. “I’m sorry if there are people who are just so hateful or fearful of it all,” she adds. “I wish that wasn’t the case.”
Two days after DeGeneres sat down with USA TODAY, hate and fear expressed themselves to the extreme when a gunman entered a gay bar in Orlando and killed 49 people. For many in the LGBT community, DeGeneres’ role in Pixar’s animated Dory(in theaters Friday), her prominence on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and visibility as an openly gay woman are powerful beacons of hope.
“Ellen has always been a leader in the LGBT community, someone who introduced to many Americans what gay is,” says Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of advocacy group GLAAD, formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “Having her voice right now is really critical, and that it’s happening as she’s releasing a major movie gives her even more of platform…”