"Television industry insiders agree that in just the past few weeks, gay actors in Hollywood have reached a critical new turning point, one that will reveal what restrictions may or may not be placed on their careers if they brave coming out of the closet. Ultimately, what happens next is up to prime-time viewers." In the 29 years since Billy Crystal outraged — and later won over — critics with his mostly sympathetic portrayal of a gay man on the sitcom “Soap,” prime-time audiences have come to accept straight actors playing gay parts, in everything from groundbreaking hits (Eric McCormack in “Will & Grace”) to all-but-forgotten flops (John Goodman in “Normal, Ohio”). But will viewers prove as welcoming toward gay actors in straight roles, especially — and this is the heart of the issue — as romantic leads? Several high-profile cases in the news lately suggest that we may be about to find out, as Americans continue to grapple with their conflicted and ever-evolving views on gays and lesbians.