SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — In the season finale of the ABC hit 'Modern Family,' actor Ty Burrell's character ends up officiating at the wedding of the show's comical gay couple.
Burrell's support for gay marriage extends beyond the scripted show, as evidenced in December when he served as the official witness to an unplanned lesbian wedding at his bar in Salt Lake City when same-sex marriage was briefly legal in Utah.
On Thursday, he'll once again display his support for making gay and lesbian weddings legal when he headlines a fundraiser in Salt Lake City. Burrell, who plays bumbling dad Phil Dunphy on the sitcom, is lending his celebrity status to help a group backed by co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays one half of the show's gay couple.
The evening event is being staged by an organization that Ferguson and his real-life husband created to help pay for the legal costs of challenging same-sex marriage bans.
Burrell and Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita will be joined by the three same-sex couples who sued Utah, their attorneys and representatives from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which has helped handle the legal case.
Burrell told The Associated Press recently that it's been an exciting time to be alive as the gay marriage movement gains steam across the country.
"To see some of my best friends getting married really feels like a miracle," Burrell said. "And it's been cool to be in Utah for it too because people are much more tolerant and open and loving about that issue than I think they get credit for."
The event comes as gay marriage advocates anxiously await a ruling from a federal appeals court in Denver about the constitutionality of Utah's same-sex marriage ban, which a federal judge overturned in December.
Utah has become a focal point for the gay marriage movement since the December ruling, which was followed by a string of similar rulings by judges in other states. The latest came in Wisconsin, the 15th consecutive pro-gay marriage ruling in lower court cases since a landmark Supreme Court ruling last summer.
Ferguson and Mikita founded the group Tie The Knot in 2012 to support making gay marriage legal. They sell bow ties for $25, with $20 from each sale going to the organization.
At Thursday's event, they'll be selling a specially made bow tie called "The Ty Burrell" that features vintage road maps of Oregon, Burrell's native state.
When Ferguson's character Mitch married his gay partner on "Modern Family," it was viewed by many as yet another sign of widening acceptance for gay marriage in the U.S.
Born and raised in Oregon, Burrell has lived in Salt Lake City since 2008. He and his wife, who was born and raised in Utah, live in the state part of the year with their two young daughters when Burrell is not in Los Angeles filming "Modern Family" or working on other projects.
Burrell says he feels much like a "Salt Laker" and raves about it being an unassuming and humble place. He owns a bar and beer garden-like eatery in the city.