U.S. Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan, whose homecoming kiss with his boyfriend Dalan Wells was captured in a photo that has been viewed and commented on by thousands around the world, has become the symbol for openly gay service members in the post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era.
And to the surprise of many, the kiss “viewed around the world,” was in fact, the couple’s first kiss ever.
(Photo courtesy Brandon Morgan for LGBTQ Nation.)
Morgan returned home last week from a six-month deployment to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, to the waiting arms of Wells — the couple’s four year friendship had blossomed into a long-distance love during Morgan’s deployment.
“We couldn’t talk, I can barely talk now, his hands went numb, my legs were shaking, our first kiss after just knowing how we felt about each other,” Morgan told KHON-TV.
Morgan and Wells said they never intended to become recognized worldwide in just a few days.
Morgan first posted the photo, taken by a friend at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, to his Facebook page. When a friend asked to post it on the Gay Marines Facebook page, the couple agreed, not expecting it to be viewed by any more than the page’s 1,000 members.
Since then, tens of thousands have “liked” or shared the photo, eventually landing on dozens of LGBT-oriented websites and blogs, including LGBTQ Nation.
Although not intended as a message or political statement, the couple said they hope the serves to inspire others, especially LGBT youth.
“If this saves one kid who says, you know look at this guy, he went and joined the Marine Corps, his life is great, then maybe that will give them the courage to hang on, and make it another day,” Wells said.
Morgan and Wells acknowledge that less than a year ago, when the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was still in effect, a kiss in that venue, and a shared photo could have brought severe consequences.
Today, the climate is very different — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was formally repealed on Sept. 20, 2011, and gay service members are now able to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.
“This is a homecoming picture. Gay, straight, it doesn’t matter who you are. Love is love,” Morgan said. “We haven’t fought for more rights or better rights than others. We fought for equal rights. And now we have them.”
Echoing this sentiment, a spokesperson for Marine Corps Base Hawaii said, in a statement, “It’s your typical homecoming photo.”