American TV viewers are seeing more gay, lesbian and transgender characters on their screens and story lines are better reflecting current issues in the gay community, according to a survey set for release on Thursday.

Characters like gay police officer John Cooper on NBC's Southland -- a rarity for a gritty crime drama -- and the gay parents of an adopted baby on the new ABC comedy Modern Family -- are sweeping away old TV stereotypes.

Some 44 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters make regular appearances in scripted shows on network and mainstream cable TV in the new 2009-10 television season, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), said in its annual Where We Are on TV report.

The 18 LGBT characters on major U.S. networks account for 3 percent of all scripted series in the prime-time TV schedule, up from 2.6 percent a year ago, the report said.

GLAAD said nine network drama series and five comedy series now feature leading or supporting LGBT characters.

Americans now see LGBT couples marrying, raising families and contributing to their communities, said GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios.

Barrios said that 1990s era shows like Will & Grace and Ellen that broke boundaries for gays and lesbians, were limited in their expression of their romantic lives.

Now Americans are seeing a wider range of the complex stories of LGBT people, such as a married gay couple looking to adopt a child on 'Brothers & Sisters', he said.

Other TV shows praised by GLAAD include the quirky Fox high school comedy Glee, which features a gay musical theater geek, and bisexual Dr. Callie Torres on ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy..

GLAAD bemoaned the loss of The L Word -- the drama about the lives of lesbian, bisexual and transgender people which ended its run on cable channel Showtime in March after five years.

It said ending the show helped reduce the amount of LGBT characters on mainstream cable TV shows to 25 from 32 last year.

Barrios said the presence of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender characters on the small screen helps Americans come to accept and better understand their LGBT family members and neighbors.