Navy tradition caught up with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell yesterday when two women became the first lesbian couple to share the first kiss, a U.S. military ritual where a chosen sailor is first off the ship for a long-awaited homecoming kiss.
When Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta stepped off of the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship on Dec. 21, she made history by sharing that coveted first kiss with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell.
'It's been a long time coming.'
Gaeta, 22, of Placerville, Calif., and Snell, 23, of Los Angeles, are fire controlmen in the Navy. They met at training school and have been dating for two years.
It's something new, that's for sure, Gaeta told reporters. It's nice to be able to be myself. It's been a long time coming.
Sailors and their loved ones bought $1 raffle tickets for the opportunity, and Gaela bought $50 worth, actually a low amount compared to her fellow sailors. The Navy said it would use the money to host a Christmas party for the children of Navy sailors.
Same-Sex Kiss a Historic First
Neither Gaeta nor Snell drew any attention to the event, which took place at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach. Many onlookers were waiting for their loved ones, and were too busy watching for friends and family to spot history in the making.
Nonetheless, the two women's homecoming kiss is a first in LGBT U.S. military history. Navy officials say it was the first time on record that a gay couple was chosen to perform the homecoming tradition.
Gaeta and Snell fought hard for the privilege of loving each other in public. When they were roommates together at training school, Don't Ask, Don't Tell forced them to hide their blossoming relationship.
We did have to hide a lot in the beginning, Snell told AP. A lot of people were not always supportive of it.
But we can finally be honest about who we are in our relationship, she added. So I'm happy.
Now that news of their homecoming kiss is spreading, both Gaeta and Snell feel certain their experience won't be the last historic first for gays and lesbians in the military.
After all, as The Virginian-Pilot reported, They kissed. The crowd cheered. And with that, another vestige of the policy that forced gays to serve in secrecy vanished.
Snell sees the kiss as a way to get an LGBT foothold in military life, especially since the Navy homecoming tradition is such a time-honored one.
I think that it's something that is going to open a lot of doors, she said. Not just our relationship, but all the other gay and lesbian relationships that are in the military now.
Snell is based on the USS Bainbridge, the guided missile destroyer that helped rescue cargo captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009.
Navy Homecoming Tradition
Below, lesbian couple Marissa Gaeta and Citlalic Snell share their first kiss: