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Changing times: ESPN shows bowling champion kissing his husband

Watch closely in the video above, and you'll see a small but important step forward in the world of sports: what may well be the first instance of a broadcast of an openly gay male pro athlete kissing his husband while celebrating. And it's played as if nothing unusual had happened ... which, of course, is exactly the case.

Our story: Scott Norton was competing in the 2012 Professional Bowling Association's Chameleon Championship on Sunday. He won in dramatic fashion over Jason Belmonte, and was overcome with emotion as he'd devoted his tournament to a recently-deceased friend. Afterward, Norton embraced and kissed husband Craig Woodward. Throughout the broadcast, as Outsports notes, ESPN had referred to Woodward as the "husband" or "spouse" of Norton. Again, no big deal.

Norton is a two-time champion, and he came out in 2011, soon after being named the PBA's Rookie of the Year. As he said when he announced he was gay, he was inspired by Phoenix Suns CEO and President Rick Welts, who also announced his orientation last year.

"It is extremely important for me to come out to show other gay athletes, both current and future, that it is important to come out to show that we are just like everyone else," he said at the time. "Being gay doesn’t define who I am as a person or as a professional athlete. I'm also a professional bowler, lawyer, caring, compassionate, strong, and many other things. It's important to show people that being gay has nothing to do with one's ability to do anything as a man, least of all compete at the highest level of sports."

Look, there is absolutely no reason why an athlete's sexual orientation should be a big deal, but for many, it still is. The fact, though, that ESPN can refer to and show a gay couple acting every bit as routine in their happiness as a straight one is, in some small way, progress. We're still a ways from a professional athlete in one of the nation's top sports coming out, but the day is getting closer. And "isn't it amazing that we can be tolerant?" articles like this one will hopefully be a thing of the past.

-Email Jay Busbee here and follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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