Gay Marine’s kiss sparks praise, anger

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If any event marks the day the military’s gay ban was really over, it came last week, when Marine CorpsSgt. Brandon Morgan, in uniform, jumped onto his boyfriend and the two engaged in a passionate kiss at an on-base military-family homecoming.

A friend photographed the embrace, which later was posted on the “Gay Marine” Facebook page and triggered an outpouring of support — and some dissent.

For the armed service’s most tradition-bound service, the one that most opposed lifting the ban last year, the transition seemed complete when a spokeswoman at Marine Corps Base Hawaii told a local TV station, “It’s your typical homecoming photo.”

The gay rights movement is applauding.

“The photo humanizes us who currently serve in the military and are gay,” said Air Force Lt. Josh Seefried, who co-directs the gay military group Outserve. “The excitement around the photo just goes to show how much society has come in realizing that our families are real and matter.

“The photo also visualizes a military couple who doesn’t receive the same benefits and protections other military couples have under the law,” Lt. Seefried said.

Said Zeke Stokes, spokesman for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which worked for the gay ban’s repeal: “This photo and the reaction to it once again underscores that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is being implemented successfully and is supported widely by the American people.”

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” or DADT, was the policy adopted during the Clinton administration that allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they did not reveal their sexual orientation and authorities did not inquire about it. It was repealed Sept. 20.

Historic photo

Former Marines contacted by The Times were reluctant to criticize Sgt. Morgan. Some did, but did not want to be quoted on the record.

Former Marine Lt. Ilario Pantano, who fought in the “Triangle of Death” in Iraq, said: “Repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a mistake. I have been on record about this topic from the beginning of the debate, and I am deeply disappointed in both the lawmakers and the troops, from privates to generals, that know better but were silent or even complicit in the decay of our societal or military values.

“The mission of the military is to fight and win wars not appease special interests that have spent millions to lobby for DADT repeal and use the military to force social engineering,” the former lieutenant said.

A spokesman for Marine Gen. James Amos said the commandant would have no comment on the photo.

Gen. Amos spoke out against repeal but has worked to make sure the Corps embraces it after Congress had enacted it. Marine recruiters have been required to attend at least one gay pride event.

The news media, too, generally has celebrated the photo.

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