A naval tradition has a crew member being chosen to be the first off a ship returning to home port and get the “first kiss,” marking the safe return and homecoming of the crew. Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta (23) and her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell (22) had the first kiss on the return of the USS Oak Hill from 80 days at sea. It’s the first time a same sex couple has been granted the honor of the “first kiss” — before repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” such action would have had them kicked out of the Navy.
It was in many ways what Commanding Officer David Bauer called a ‘non-event.’ The crew’s reaction was positive, their kiss was greeted with flag waving and cheers, and otherwise it was a normal return. Normal. No protests, no public debates, just a couple in love returning home from serving their country. Even the choice to have them get the first kiss was not some kind of effort for historic symbolism — they simply won a raffle to determine the first kiss.
A year ago when DADT was repealed there were numerous efforts by social conservatives to stop the action. Senators pointed to Marine Commandant James F. Amos who opposed repeal, as a sign that military preparedness was being sacrificed for political correctness. Now even Amos is convinced that repeal was a good thing, and the Marines are actively recruiting gays.
As 2011 nears an end there is a lot to be concerned about. The economic recovery is slow and the global financial system is still tottering with more uncertainty than most people realize. Change in the Arab world, while good in the long run, brings real short term uncertainty and danger. Political fights seem as partisan and bitter as ever.
But as a culture we are progressing. A story like this would have been impossible just a few years ago. Same sex marriage is slowly expanding, with a majority of Americans now approving of it. Here in Maine there is a good chance a public referendum will approve it next fall (a state law approving it was very narrowly repealed by referendum in 2009). On many levels freedom is expanding and old prejudices are giving way.
In this season of joy, love and faith this simple “first kiss” reminds us that despite all the political turmoil, progress is being made in the fight against ignorance, bigotry and prejudice! There is still a long way to go on a variety of issues, but this kiss should cause us to pause and celebrate the progress so far.