Two female American sailors have become the first lesbian couple to share the traditional dockside "first kiss" since the United States ended a ban on gays in the defence forces.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, 23, who had been at the sea for 80 days, descended from the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship and shared a quick kiss in the rain with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, 22.
"It''s something new, that''s for sure. It''s nice to be able to be myself. It''s been a long time coming," Gaeta said after the kiss. 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.
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," Commander Bauer said.
According to the Age, navy officials said it was the first time on record that a same-sex couple was chosen to kiss first upon a ship''s return. Sailors and their loved ones bought 1-dollar raffle tickets for the opportunity.
Officer 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.