The Quantum Leap series dealt with racism, sexism, prejudice against the disabled. Sam was a man, a woman,a Catholic priest and a Jewish Rabbi He leaped into teenagers and senior citizens. Heck, at one point Sam even leaped into a 'space chimp' in an episode about animal rights. Given the shows forward-thinking,humanitarian world view it's treatment of sexual orientation was somewhat out of place.
In "Good Night Dear Heart" a character's homosexuality is revealed at the episode's climax, along with the fact that she accidentally killed her girlfriend in a fit of jealously.
In "One Strobe Over the Line' homosexuality is an accusation levied against Sam (as a photographer) when he refuses to sleep with a female model struggling to overcome drug addiction.
Beyond that, homosexuality was a minor plot element in a handful of episodes (often used as a joke). None of the characters in the future . at the project) are openly gay and despite the fact that the show takes great pains to depict intolerance, bigotry and prejudice as elements of the backwards past, the series avoided looking at homosexuality as a civil right issue until "Running For Honor" aired in the fourth season.
Granted, part of the problem was that when the series originally aired it was still controversial to express support for gay rights. TV sitcoms and other TV series that did express some support for gay rights by having gay characters or dealing with ***phobia, did with some risk of alienating the more conservative sponsors or audiences.
Maybe we should be glad that the series tried to do anything at all. Maybe, maybe not.
Anyways, in this episode Sam leaps into a Navy academy student who is popular with his peers, earns excellent academic marks and is the school's track star. Well what could be the problem? Well, his former roommate was kicked out of the academy for being gay, people begin to suspect that Sam is gay (because he is not ***phobic) and in the (original history) the ex-roomate was killed by a group of gay bashing cadets.
OK, the episode is certainly well meaning. Al is opposed to gay people being in the military, which Sam dismisses as bigotry. Al learns the error of his ways through listening to Sam and seeing the bravery of two gay characters in the episode.
Discrimination based on "sexual preference" is seen as akin to other forms of hatred. Hate crimes against gay people are condemned, the existence of an organized gay community in the early 1960s is alluded to (albeit the only thing seen as the warehouse is an "underground" newspaper.
Heck, the episode even mentions the Stonewall Inn riots, which is an important piece of gay rights history. So, what is bad about this particular episode?
Well, Sam leaps into someone who MIGHT be gay. Ziggy seems pretty sure, but because that could put Sam into a complicated situation -- based on the rules of time travel -- he elects to avoid any potential romantic relationships (male or female) and basically takes the position that (at least while he is in control), the naval academy student is going to be assexual, sort of.
One would think that Sam -- who is brilliant and designed the Quantum Leap project -- would have accepted the fact that not everyone he leaped into would be heterosexual. Granted he was initially surprised that he could leap into women, but what happens when the person that leaped into was openly gay and in a relationship?
This was early 1990s network TV, so questions like that just got tossed under the bus. Gay characters could exist and they could be nice people, but if they were going to be good guys, they needed to be publicly assexual.
Beyond the limitations of network TV, "Running For Honor" wants us to believe some pretty odd (if not silly) things. Such as;
1. It is unlikely that a general (or any other father) would be happy that his high school daughter (who is maybe, 16 or 17 years old) is dating a college student. I suspect that the original script had the story take place at a high school, but it is odd that this was never changed.
2. Even in the early 1960s, when the episode takes place, their was an organized gay community. The episode alludes to the existence of gay bars (where the hate crimes are taking place) but the only thing that you see is this newspaper that Philip produces. General interest gay magazines did exist back them. But does this newspaper have staff or volunteers? How is it getting its funding?
3. Philip is watching (in the stands) Sam race at the end of the episode. Would an ex-cadet be allowed to come onto campus to watch the athletic events? I realize that the script needed the character to be seen, in order to wrap things up. But, if the school kicked him out for being gay, woudn't that mean that they didn't want to see him on campus again?
4. It is implied that the ban on gays in the military still exists in the Quantum Leap future, because of the way that Al and Sam debate the policy. Although Sam changed history -- Philip didn't die, and went onto help promote gay rights. So, does the anti-gay ban still exist in the mid-late 1990s when the series is set (in terms of the future)?
5. Oddly enough, neither Sam or Al consider the fact that they can (as is seen in other episodes) talk with the person that Sam leaped into. Accordingly to the cannon of the series Tommy York is in the future (although people in the future would see that he looks like Sam). Al could talk with him in the waiting room.