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A picture that proves the point

OPINION

  • The kiss
The kiss (Facebook )
February 28, 2012|By Jason Steele, For RedEye

By now you've undoubtedly seen the photo of Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan kissing his partner, Dalan Wells, upon returning home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The photo, which was posted Saturday, has gone viral on Facebook with tens of thousands of "likes" and thousands of mostly positive comments. It already has been likened to the iconic "Sailor Kisses Nurse" photo from World War II.

Why is this image garnering so much attention? Because it's important.

You often hear rumblings within the gay community that things aren't changing fast enough in our favor—then you see a photo like this and realize that progress is being made. Progress not only in the gay community but with the straight community as well.

The fact that this photo has been picked up by the mainstream media with overwhelmingly positive commentary and feedback shows that acceptance is far further along than the naysayers would have us believe.

Just look at the power of this photo.

The Marine is so overjoyed upon seeing his partner that he jumps into his arms, wraps his legs around him and plants a kiss on him—right in front of the American flag. Remember, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy ended only last fall. The picture is a symbol that represents honor, freedom and valor not just for straight Americans but for every American.

Lost in this news coverage is the fact that Morgan and Wells weren't the first same-sex military couple to have their kiss photo make a splash.

In December, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta was chosen (via a military raffle of "first-kiss photos") to have a photo taken of her kissing her girlfriend, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, as she disembarked the USS Oak Hill in Virginia Beach, Va.

What's next? How about a video of a gay military mom or dad surprising their kid in school like we so often see at the end of a news broadcast.

Someday these same-sex homecoming photos will be so commonplace that they won't cause a stir, but for now let's celebrate their love, affection, openness and awesomeness.

These photos inspire a countless number of people to show that being out and proud is important. They prove that gay men and women currently are and always have been protecting this country and the rights and freedoms of all of us, even those people who don't support gays in the military.

But to the haters and Internet trolls, I think Morgan responded best when he posted a statement on his Facebook page that read in part: "If the Sergeants Major, Captains, Majors, and Colonels around us didn't care ... then why do [we] care what these random people have to say?"

Welcome home, Sgt. Morgan.

JASON STEELE IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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