US Navy Lesbian Couple Share First Same-Sex Kiss at Ship’s Return [Video]

Two female US sailors have become the first same-sex couple to share the traditional dockside “first kiss” since the US ended a ban on gays in the army.

A Navy tradition caught up with the repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule on Wednesday when two women sailors became the first to share the coveted “first kiss” on the pier after one of them returned from 80 days at sea.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of Placerville, Calif., descended from the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship and shared a quick kiss with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles. The crowd screamed and waved flags around them.

“It’s something new, that’s for sure,” Gaeta told reporters after the kiss. “It’s nice to be able to be myself. It’s been a long time coming.”

The US Army’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was lifted in September, after years of debate. The policy had barred openly gay men and women from serving in the military.

For the historical significance of the kiss, there was little to differentiate it from countless others when a Navy ship pulls into its home port following a deployment.

Neither the Navy nor the couple tried to draw attention to what was happening and many onlookers waiting for their loved ones to come off the ship were busy talking among themselves.

Both women are Navy fire controlmen, who maintain and operate weapons systems on ships. They met at training school where they were roommates and have been dating for two years, which they said was difficult under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“We did have to hide it a lot in the beginning,” Snell said. “A lot of people were not always supportive of it in the beginning, but we can finally be honest about who we are in our relationship, so I’m happy.”

The ship returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story following an 80-day deployment to Central America.

The crew of more than 300 participated in exercises involving the militaries of Honduras, Guatemala Colombia and Panama as part of Amphibious-Southern Partnership Station 2012.

PO Snell said her partner had told her of the kiss a few days ago and she had “freaked out – in a good way”.

“I’m a little nervous, you know. But I’ve been waiting since she left,” she said.

Snell said she believes their experience won’t be the last one for gays and lesbians in the military.

“I think that it’s something that is going to open a lot of doors, for not just our relationship, but all the other gay and lesbian relationships that are in the military now,” she said.

David Bauer, the commanding officer of the USS Oak Hill, said that Gaeta and Snell’s kiss would largely be a non-event and the crew’s reaction upon learning who was selected to have the first kiss was positive.

“It’s going to happen and the crew’s going to enjoy it. We’re going to move on and it won’t overshadow the great things that this crew has accomplished over the past three months,” Bauer said.

A Navy spokeswoman told Reuters the military “doesn’t really keep track of stuff like that” but that she believed this was the first same-sex homecoming kiss.

“To the Navy, (it was) really just a normal homecoming,” said Ensign Sylvia Landis. [via Huffington Post, BBC and MSN]

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