By Daniel Bukszpan, CNBC.com
James Ivory and the late Ismail Merchant were male life partners who were together for more than 40 years. They were also the filmmakers responsible for such popular and acclaimed films as "Howard's End" and "The Remains of the Day," both of which were well-received by critics and earned back over three times their production budgets at the box office.
For his work on their films, Ivory won several awards and was nominated for eight Oscars. For his part, Merchant was known for an ability to bring in his elaborate period films for considerably less than it cost his contemporaries when they tried to do the same. Together, they enjoyed a personal and professional relationship that was successful on both fronts for more than 40 years, making them a true power couple.
As time passes and laws relax, homosexuality itself is becoming less and less socially stigmatized. More gay couples are making their presence known than ever before, and what the general public repeatedly sees are committed, successful people who excel in such fields as entertainment, politics, technology, and much more.
Some of these couples are coming out after years of hiding their sexual preference from the public. And some of them never came out because they were never in the closet to begin with. However, all of them are influential people who have reached the highest echelons of their chosen fields.
Who are 10 of the most prominent gay power couples?
Jeff Vespa | Getty Images EntertainmentEllen Degeneres & Portia de Rossi
Ellen DeGeneres is an actress who became famous during the 1990s thanks to her sitcom "Ellen." DeGeneres came out, both personally and on the show, in 1997. The program was cancelled one year later, leading some to speculate that coming out had destroyed her career. However, she was just getting started.
DeGeneres started hosting "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2003, a talk show that has run for eight consecutive seasons and earned high ratings for all of them. In 2006, she hosted the Academy Awards, and in 2007Forbes magazine listed her as one of "The 20 Richest Women in Entertainment," with an estimated net worth of $65 million.
DeGeneres has been in a relationship with actress Portia de Rossi since 2004. De Rossi is best known for her roles on such television shows as "Ally McBeal" and "Arrested Development." The pair got married in California in August 2008, but the longevity of their union's legal status was thrown into doubt with the passage of California Proposition 8, a ballot initiative limiting the legal recognition of marriages to those between a man and woman. However, the marriage took place prior to Proposition 8's passage, and it remained legit as a result.
(L) Getty Images (R) Facebook Chris Hughes & Sean Eldridge
Chris Hughes is one of the co-founders of Facebook, a social networking site that he established at Harvard University with current CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In 2008, he helped coordinate Barack Obama's online campaign when he ran for president, and the following year Fast Company magazine ran an article in which Obama campaign manager David Plouffe gushed over him. "Technology has always been used as a net to capture people in a campaign or cause, but not to organize," Plouffe said. "Chris saw what was possible before anyone else." Hughes' partner, Sean Eldridge, is a senior advisor and political director at the non-profit organization Freedom to Marry. The organization is currently involved in an effort to have the Defense of Marriage Act repealed. In January 2011, at a benefit for the organization, Hughes and Eldridge announced their engagement.
Getty ImagesJane Lynch & Lara Embrey
For years, comedy fans delighted to the performances of actress Jane Lynch in such films as "Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind," and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." She went fully mainstream in 2009 when she began stealing scenes as Sue Sylvester, the high school cheerleading coach on the Fox comedy series "Glee." Critics loved her, and The Los Angeles Times ' Mary McNamara said that "Lynch alone makes 'Glee' worth watching."
Lynch is married to Dr. Lara Embry, a clinical psychiatrist who she met at the 2009 National Center for Lesbian Rights gala. They became engaged at the same gala the following year. The two wed in May 2010 in Massachusetts, and both are avid animal lovers who own a dog named Olivia after singer Olivia Newton John.
Getty ImagesTom Ford & Richard Buckley
Tom Ford is a fashion designer credited with reviving the fortunes of Gucci when he became its creative director in 1994. At the time, the fashion house was struggling to stay afloat, but under Ford's direction it not only became successful again, but saw a sales increase of 90 percent within two years. By the time he left the company in 2004 to form his own, Gucci was valued at $10 billion.
Ford has been involved with the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Hommes International , Richard Buckley, for 25 years. The two moved in together within days of their first date, after Buckley presented Ford with a copy of his apartment keys inside of a box from Tiffany's.
See the Full Slideshow of 10 Gay Power Couples
By Daniel Bukszpan, CNBC.com