End of 'Don't Ask' sealed with a kiss

The kiss seen 'round the world last week between two women sailors was more than a traditional kiss marking a Navy ship's return home.

It was a triumphant, public display of affection between a same-sex couple celebrating the first anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell - a controversial directive originally intended to make life easier for gays and lesbians in the military, but which wound up forcing the discharge of 13,000 from the service over the 18 years it remained in effect and forced many thousands more to live a lie.

This newspaper long has advocated a more reasonable and inclusive policy, and applaud the sailors - Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, 23, of Placerville, California, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, 22, of Los Angeles for a gesture that was both personal and symbolic.

Ms. Gaeta, stationed aboard the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship, had purchased 50 $1 lottery tickets sold aboard the ship - the proceeds went to charity - for the right to the first welcome-home kiss with a loved one on shore.

After her name was drawn, she called Ms. Snell, a Navy fire controlman, to make sure her partner would be comfortable being photographed while kissing.

"I kind of freaked out - in a good way - but of course I'm a little nervous, you know. But I've been waiting since she left," Ms. Snell later told reporters.

"It's something new, that's for sure," Ms. Gaeta added. "It's nice to be able to be myself. It's been a long time coming."

The ship had returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va. following an 80-day deployment to Central America. The two met as roommates at training school two years ago and have been dating ever since, which they said was a challenge under "don't ask, don't tell."

It was the first time a same-sex couple had won the "first-kiss" lottery, and the story got major play in newspapers around the world and on national television broadcasts.

NBC Nightly News complemented the story with a feature on how the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was welcomed elsewhere in the military, including by troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

Correspondent Jim Maceda called Task Force Bulldog, on patrol in eastern Afghanistan, "the kind of combat unit that would implode, critics warned, if Don't Ask, Don't tell were repealed. But the chaos they predicted if openly gay and lesbian soldiers served in close quarters during combat never happened."

Staff Sergeant Chris Bostick, on his third combat tour, a squad leader, said, "Every single one of my soldiers knows that I'm gay, and they know who I am and what I stand for."

When Mr. Maceda asked, "And how do his straight buddies see it?" one soldier replied, "If you want to fight for our country, I don't care what you do, you know, that's how it should be."

That is indeed how it should be, and we welcome a day when a same-sex kiss isn't any more newsworthy than one between a heterosexual couple.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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