Adam Lambert claimed ABC banned him and threatened him with a lawsuit after sharing a same-sex kiss with a musician onstage during a performance at the 2009 American Music Awards.
Lambert was a former Broadway performer who rose to fame after finishing as runner-up on the eighth season of American Idol.
He became the first openly gay male artist to top the charts after his 2012 album Trespassing debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200.
While accepting an award at the 2023 Creative Coalition Spotlight Initiative Gala, Lambert opened up about ABC's harsh response to his AMA performance–which ABC televised.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the 40-year-old singer said the backlash prompted him to "be as gay as I f'king can be."
Lambert said he performed on the night of his first single coming out at the American Music Awards show and that it was the kind of performance he had seen since being a teenager.
He recalled being in the moment that led to his spontaneous kiss.
"I was kind of sexy, and had dancers on stage, and I did a couple of suggestive moves with a couple of dancers, and an impromptu kiss with my bass player. I was feeling it."
The controversial smooch can be seen in the clip below of Lambert performing "For Your Entertainment" from his debut album of the same name.
Lambert said he faced immediate consequences following the performance.
"Well, I got off stage and I got in trouble. The network was like, 'How dare you?' They banned me for a while."
"They threatened me with a lawsuit. It was like, 'Oh, okay, that's where we're at.' I didn't know."
"I'd been in a bubble in LA amongst artists, weirdos, and I didn't realize that that kind of thing would ruffle feathers the way it did."
The singer added in his acceptance speech that ABC's negative response to the kiss prompted him to stand his ground as a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and "be as gay as I f'king can be."
"If it gets me into trouble, it gets me in trouble, but I'm not going to back down from it, and be flamboyant and be wild, and if it gets me into trouble, it gets me in trouble, but I'm not going to back down from it."
As a result of his empowering and unapologetic attitude, Lambert said he saw progress in queer visibility among the younger generation.
"Over the past few years, I keep meeting more and more young people that saw me when we were a kid on TV and they're like...'You helped me talk to my parents about being gay.'"
In concluding his speech, Lambert emphasized "visibility is so powerful."
"The LGBTQ community has been under attack for a long time, are under attack again."
"There's a lot of conservative pushback, and making art that represents the queer experience and stars people."
"That gives the LGBTQ community strength...hope. It gives us inspiration."
"It makes us shed some of that shame and self-loathing that we grow up with."
"I'm so thrilled to be an artist in this time. We have a lot of challenges in front of us."
"It's not over yet. There's still work to be done, but I am just so proud of the work that's been done so far."
Since 2011, Lambert has been working with the legendary rock band Queen as the lead vocalist for Queen + Adam Lambert.
He performed with them for several worldwide tours from 2014 to 2022.
His ongoing philanthropy advocating for LGBTQ+ and human rights culminated in his founding the non-profit organization Feel Something Foundation in 2019.
According to the Feel Something Foundation's website its goal is:
"to ensure support is given to the myriad of issues that continue to disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community."
"The foundation assists those charities that are moving the needle for communities of all ages and backgrounds."
"These are organisations that have a mission or project directly focussed on impacting the LGBTQ+ community in areas of Education & the Arts; Homelessness; Suicide Prevention and Mental Health."