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Do Kiss, Do Tell, Do Show

| March 9, 2012

gay marines kissing homecoming picture hawaii

The Stars and Stripes' worthiest kiss of the year.

After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the soldier’s homecoming kiss is almost a cliché: husband reuniting with wife, girlfriend returning to boyfriend, dad surprising his child in her classroom. It’s impossible to watch without becoming emotional even when the scenes have by now taken a manipulative twist as local TV news producers stage them with shameless frequency.

Pierre Tristam FlaglerLive editor

Pierre Tristam

The Live Column

But this picture is different. Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan is kissing his boyfriend Dalan Wells, on the mouth, his legs wrapped around Wells’s hips. Morgan is in fatigues, but he’s the feminine one swept off his feet. A giant American flag frames the couple at the Marine base in Hawaii where Morgan just landed after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. A friend shot the picture and posted it on Facebook. It wasn’t meant for broad public consumption or ratings or voyeuristic appeal. It went viral, generating dozens of news stories and tens of thousands of comments on the many sites that picked up the shot.

Most celebrated the happy couple in words as moving as the image: “Welcome home, brother!” “Truly amazing and profound.” “I’m not gay and I’m not a Marine. Just wanted to come here and state that this photo makes me very proud to be an American and very proud of our United States Marines.” Some, inevitably, rehashed instead the old bigotries veiled as pleas for discretion, or worse, usually in language best paraphrased: Don’t cram it down our throats, don’t show, don’t tell, don’t dare, and that old standard of sophomoric reaction: “Yuck,” usually followed by a firing squad of exclamation marks. Old prejudices never die, especially when the military merely tolerates the post-don’t-ask-don’t-tell normal without quite embracing it. There’s a cutting difference.

You won’t find this picture or any like it posted at the Department of Defense’s promiscuously image-rich websites (where it’s no small irony that military hardware is displayed with the prurience of porn), though you should: it is no less a wonderful and heartbreaking a picture than countless ones where the relationships are more ostensibly traditional. The fact that it involves two men should be as irrelevant to the appropriateness of the scene as if it involved father and child.

Alfred Eisenstaedt's classic.

If anything, the picture of Morgan and Wells rises above the other clichés of the genre because, as intimate as the moment is between the men, who suspected neither the shot nor the enormous attention it would receive in late February, it has the same iconic feel as Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Life magazine shot of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day. Both capture a moment of exuberance and jubilation. Both, in different ways, capture the essence of liberation on a large scale, personified through two beating hearts and two sets of lips.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the very slow liberation of gays and lesbians from millennia of brutality across most cultures is as monumental a victory as the defeat of fascism, especially when hatreds with similarly obliterating motives are being defeated. Victory for gays and lesbians is nowhere complete. Not even in the United States and especially not in Florida, where gay-marriage bans are still the rule and triumphs of gay equality the exception. But the picture from Hawaii is one more frame in a narrative virtually fated to a better future.

Brandon Morgan has it just right: “This is a homecoming picture. Gay, straight, it doesn’t matter who you are. Love is love. We haven’t fought for more rights or better rights than others. We fought for equal rights. And now we have them.” For those who don’t, it’s a matter of time, because in the battle between natural rights and primal bigotries, it’s ultimately no contest.

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50 Responses for “Do Kiss, Do Tell, Do Show”

  1. Outsider says:

    I now believe “don’t ask don’t tell” may have had some merits. Flame away.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you men and women who serve in the military, Myself being gay teen in high school still in the closet it’s hard. But i can see this country on the right tract to gay rights. God Bless America

  3. blondee says:

    While I’d like to thank every veteran for their service, I’m NOT liking this photo. They can do whatever they like in private, but don’t put it on the front page of my newspaper.

    • tampanative says:

      blondee, if you don’t like it don’t read it. No one forced you to look at the image, if you do not like it go to some other location as your news source, that is your right. Secondly, unless you own the paper, website, blog domain name etc., it is not yours.

    • jespo says:

      aahhh…the ubiquitous ‘they’ in the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality held dearly by ‘those people’ who just don’t get what ‘we’ get…..and i might add, I guess it’s not your newspaper anymore since ‘they’ get it too…

    • Laura says:

      Why not? Love is meant to be displayed and not hidden. Hidden love is ‘dictatorship’.

  4. palmcoaster says:

    I can only say that I am not righteous fit or in a position to judge anyone because their human sexual orientation. I do not agree with any discrimination for any given reason. But I have to recognize that the photo surprised me, to say the least. In the other hand the joy shown was obvious and I was happy to have this soldier also, alive and well back home. My deepest appreciation to “all our veterans”.

  5. Kip Durocher says:

    He may be “the feminine one swept off his feet” but, Marine Sgt.Brandon Morgan says it all.
    One does not become a Sergeant in the United States Marines by accident. All marines are 0311.
    Welcome home

  6. roco says:

    I’m a Marine and proud to have served.. When this photo was exposed in the media I was sick.. This is the most disgusting and sickening thing I’ve ever seen.. This is a disgrace to corp and those two fagits that exploit it should drummed and dishonorably discharged.. There is no place for this in the military.. When the troups come under enemy fire and the C.O. cammands to shoot those creeps the troups will have to decide who he’s talking about..

    • dontbesoparanoid says:

      Though I don’t care for the photo, I also know that it is not something for me to judge. And maybe it’s not for me to judge a comment provoked by this photo either but generally speaking, it just seems to me that when a person speaks out with such hatred toward something, that perhaps they could be fighting an inner battle against some of their own feelings of this nature they believe are so wrong thus magnifying their anger.

      What also gets me is the Bible thumpers who know better than to judge but they do anyway. They’ll quote every verse applicable except the one that tells them not to judge.

    • jespo says:

      I’m not sure which America you served for rocky, but the one we live in believes that all of us are equal, deserving of the same rights as the next citizen, and that the morality police are a dysfunctional band of nitwits who should not be trusted with a potato gun let alone an M16. I’ll also wager that you looked amazingly manly in a spotless uniform standing at attention erect.

      There is a time when a soilder brings shame upon his profession it’s true. You just did by sugggesting that a soilders brothers and sisters should kill him because he’s gay. i sincerely hope you no longer serve my country.

  7. tulip says:

    I agree with Blondee’s viewpoint. When I came onto Flagler Live, the picture turned my stomach.

  8. Blondee – “they” are doing no more or less than you and I and the bulk of people commenting here do whenever they see the person they love after a long absence, especially where one partner was rather obviously in danger… Should they closet their joy for fear of offending your sensibilities, such as they are?

    PS: unless you own FlaglerLive, I wouldn’t be calling it your newspaper… I am sure if it was indeed yours, we wouldn’t see images like this gracing the front page. For the fact that it’s not indeed yours, I am grateful.

  9. Outsider says:

    Sorry Inna, but I agree with Blondee. I almost graced the front page with a perfectly good ten dollar lunch.

  10. Pierre Tristam says:

    Tampanative and Inna, while I appreciate the defense, I must also defend blondee’s comment without qualifiers. Whether I agree with it or not is irrelevant, but I very much disagree with the notion that she should not have room to express herself against the image in exactly the way she did, or even that she shouldn’t to some degree take ownership of “her newspaper” (assuming we’re referring to a woman). We all have a sense of ownership toward the publications we read and—I hope—love, for good reason. I’m grateful readers feel that way toward FlaglerLive. I think it’s understood that blondee is not talking about ownership in the Romney-Owns-Bain sense of the term, but in the very justifiable sense that as a reader she has a stake in it, and no less of a stake for being in dissent. This place would be a hell of a lot poorer if it were nothing more than a chorus in an echo chamber. We’re not here to agree but to battle it out in words. Dissent deserves equal rights too (isn’t that what we lack most in this nation so enslaved to groupthink?)

    That said, blondee’s comment is itself fair, and I think easy, game for deconstruction, as it illustrates precisely the point I try to make in the column: what prejudices are enduring cannot survive reason or dignity, let alone a belief in equal rights. (Biblical ringers are no defense, in case that’s the next claim). As for roco’s bile (because that’s all it seems to be: no thought or logic behind it), well, some bigotries, like the ebola virus, are best left to self-destruct undisturbed in their own corner of the jungle.

    • Thelma says:

      Well pierre, Are you now going to start making bigoted remarks against christians ? I guess the old saying holds true…You can take the muslim out of the middle east, but you can’t take the middle east out of a muslim.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Why is it that the homosexual movement requires us to be open to their lives but they cannot accept other values? Just because someone doesn’t agree with your lifestyle doesn’t make them a bigot. Get over yourselves.. you’re really not that important.

  12. Fair enough, Pierre, and my apologies… I find it hard to keep a cool head when people’s reaction to something like this photo is feeling sick…

  13. blondee says:

    Inna, I’m too much of a lady to wrap my legs around my husband’s hips in a public place, much less have the image be broadcast for the world to see. Don’t put me in that category.

    • blondee – this wasn’t public or for public consumption (no cameras present, no PR lackeys). It was an authentic moment captured on film. We have far too few of those nowadays. The broadcasting was inadvertent.

  14. DC3 says:

    It would almost make me sick seeing a wife mount her husband this way.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      I mounted a deer once. And a pheasant. One day, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas, I’ll never know.

      Grouch Marx, in his draft board interview. (4F)

  15. FlaglerNative says:

    I felt chunks in my throat the first time I looked at this, so..I had to shut down my puter compose myself and come back on just to state a point to you all.
    If being gay is normal then tell me this…..why is it that in a gay relationship does one of the partners have to take a feminie role and the other takes a masculine role???? If being gay is normal then why the heck don’t both of the men/or women keep their own role. Why does one of the women have to act and talk like a man, or why does a man have to talk with a high pitched estrogen induced tone???
    YOU ALL KNOW WHY because in the beginning it was ADAM and EVE NOT ADAM and STEVE.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Well said! Put in the words that could only come from a self-hating mother with a long list of Gay Porn sites on his Windows Explorer history site. A man who dreams of having more than just chunks in his throat.

  16. Pierre Tristam says:

    Dear Thelma, I have no idea what one thing has to do with the other, but since you bring it up: it’s very difficult to make bigoted comments against Christians when in that regard they are reliably good at doing it unto themselves with Onan’s enthusiasm, kind of the way you just did in your comment, its only surprise being that you managed to refrain—this time, anyway—from calling me a sand nigger or a towel head or a terrorist, whatever your Thesaurus of Christian enlightenment happens to dictate regarding us dirty Ay-rabs on a full-moon Southern evening.

    A couple of points: you can’t call something an “old saying” just because it’s of Bush-era vintage, or because delirious people keeping Big Pharma happy in assisted living facilities are saying it. Also—not that it matters, since I’d be more honored to be called either a Muslim or a Jew than I am a Christian on said moonlit evenings—I was born and raised a Catholic (and worse: a Jesuit), and have been having a hell of a hard time getting that Catholicism out of me, much as I try (ask Colleen Conklin, who keeps trying to be my soul’s mother superior). On occasions I succeed, but then I run into a fellow-Christian like you and it’s Sodom and Gonorrhea all over again (not that there’s anything wrong with Sodomy, as Seinfeld taught us back in middle school, unless of course it’s your father confessor trying to crowd your side of the confessional). Anyway, as the old Lebanese saying goes, I hope you find a good podiatrist-slash-crane operator to help you with all those feet in your mouth. Let me know if there’s an insurance plan that covers that. Especially a Catholic one. We could add it as a bonus perk in our comment policy.

    PS: FlaglerNative, in the beginning it was actually Adam and Adam. You might recall the first sex-change operation fig-leafed as that thing with Adam’s rib. God’s idea. Don’t blame gays for knowing their genes from Genesis.

  17. Barb says:


    You are the one who is a disgrace.

    And FlaglerNative…there are many gay men who are BOTH masculine and many gay women who are both feminine.

    If gay people make you feel incredibly ill, then my wish is for you to encounter many of them. What sad people….

  18. flagler beach native says:


  19. NortonSmitty says:

    As a proud Navy veteran, I have to say this picture does not surprise me. I’ve heard stories about our Little Brothers in the Corps for years and I guess it’s good to see them finally come out. It will not lessen the respect I have for the men of the Corps, I will still buy their cookies every spring.

    Semper Fi

  20. FlaglerNative says:

    @Pierre…If being gay came from god …then why can’t two men or two women pro-create??? I think you really need to take a biblical history class in college. I thought the commandment “be fruitful and become many and fill and subdue the Earth”(Genesis 1:28) came from god???? CAN 2 MEN OR 2 WOMEN ACHEIVE THIS???
    NOPE…keep breaking the rules they’ll all pay just like in Sodom and Gemorah.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      FN, are you saying that with the Gay people on this earth that God made that many mistakes? Somebodies goin’ to H E Double Hocky-Sticks!

  21. NortonSmitty says:

    Oh yea, as far as the other marching orders, we have just about “subdued the Earth” to death.

  22. roco says:

    They’re misfits and do not belong in society and flount the fact they’re weird and if they can’t get a girl freind or boy freind they resort to this stuff. Keep it behind closed doors so we don’t have to look at this crap..

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Roco, it’s even worse than that. If they can’t even manage to get a lover or the same sex, and even the dog growls when they approach with a jar of Vaseline, the only thing they have to prove how studley and testoserone laden they are is to listen and call in to Right-Wing talk radio and post stupid fucking comments on the local political blogs. So sad. You hang in there though buddy. One day the local pound may take you off the Do Not Adopt a Dog list. If you get desperate enough to resort to cats however, I will put in a good word for you.

      Chin up.

  23. Nancy N. says:

    While I understand that Flagler Live is intended as a place for a free exchange of opinions, I’m disappointed that the comment moderator chose to allow the comment from Roco to post that contained an offensive slur and a not so veiled call to violence against gays. That’s way over the line past just expressing an opinion.

    And quite frankly, it’s none of your business who anyone else falls in love with. Who this soldier loves is no more your business than who your next door neighbor is sleeping with is.

    Oh, whoops, bad argument…because you busy bodies probably think that is your business too.

  24. Out of curiosity says:

    Flagler beach native – inflation, civil unrest, corruption, widening gap between rich and poor, lack of Roman recruits and invasion of Germanic tribes and Huns (among other things) led to he fall of the Roman Empire, not homosexuality.

  25. roco says:

    Nancy you may want to read my post again. This time read slowly and absorb the words.. All I can say is “they walk among us”. I wish I’d written the other posting because it sums up the whole impression these people give to the average person. Take it for what it’s worth.,.

  26. Outsider says:

    Nancy N: some might argue it becomes our business when it’s plastered across the front page of newspapers and websites around the country. In fact, FlaglerLive WANTS it to be our business; I’m assuming the purpose is to evoke the very responses posted above. I understand that some people feel they are gay, and I’m not in their minds and can’t argue with that. What I object to is the left constantly shoving this in our face and insisting that we accept it as perfectly normal behavior and become upset when some don’t. The worst part is that the media and Hollywood types want it to go a step further and portray homosexuality to our children as a perfectly legitimate and acceptable alternative if you should happen to become bored with the opposite sex. Of course Pierre wants to prohibit any mention of the Bible as argument against homosexuality. Since it is the source for most of our moral guidelines (Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal,) that would leave filling in any blanks or grey areas to the presumed smartest guy in the room. I will say that some of the posts above regarding the publisher are quite disappointing. While I’m ideologically 180 degrees opposite of Pierre most of the time, I do see someone who lost his job, and instead of bitching, moaning, and sulking pursued his dream in an endeavor he obviously has passion for and created this publication. I would ask any of those above who made derogatory posts about him, what could be more American than that?

    • Nancy N. says:

      How can you possibly say that the bible is the source of our moral guidelines? There are many many people (like myself) who do NOT believe in the bible who believe it is wrong to kill and steal for their own reasons.

      And it’s no more your business to judge that couple’s appropriateness to be together because they are on the front page of a newspaper than it is to judge a heterosexual couple suitability for each other that is splashed all over the newspaper. Just because information is presented to you doesn’t mean that you have the moral authority to cast judgement over it. We’ve become so self-righteous and judgmental as a society, however, that we forget where our business ends and where other people’s begins.

      Have you ever actually known someone personally – I mean, close to you – that you knew was gay? I guarantee you that they will tell you that their sexual identity is more than just being “bored” with the opposite sex. It’s part of who they are. Sexual identity is intensely personal and is not something that people just decide on a whim.

  27. palmcoaster says:

    LIve and let live, because life is too short!

  28. I. M. Agoste says:

    Those two “fagits”, as you call them, are US citizens — and have served their country honorably. The way I see it, they have the right to live, love and act as they see fit BECAUSE THEY FOUGHT FOR OUR COUNTRY. And I bet the little guy being smooched by his lover has more guts than you’ll ever pretend to have, ex- Jar Head or not. Being gay is not for the faint hearted so quit twirling your pearls and join this century.

  29. Anon says:

    As a gay resident of this County, I’m not surprised at the reaction that is on this website from this picture. What you do at home in your house is none of my business, and what I do in mine is none of yours. Different strokes for different folks.

    He who is without sin cast the first stone. This was intended to be a private homecoming that went viral on the internet. Don’t judge a situation that you know nothing about. Most people that have a problem with homosexuality either have a hidden secret attraction or drink the religious Kool-Aid, which says love your neighbor in one sentence and hate the gays in the next. Interesting fact… Adultery is against the bible too? Does that stop some of you?

    Society is full of people attempting to push their agenda on others. If you don’t want to see something like this on FlalgerLive there’s other articles to read and you could have skipped over this one.

    Flagler Native -Roman Society failed because of the homosexuality? Over expansion, greed and tyranny might be a better reason but lets blame the gays. Regarding your post with comments of the masculine and feminine of each person in a relationship, you obviously haven’t met a good number of gay couples. I know male / female relationships that the woman is the “dominant” one and the male is the “submissive” one. Does that make you sick? Homosexuality is documented in 300 species on the planet, not normal huh?

    Roco… Wow!! You want people to take you seriously but you call someone a “faggot” in a post because you got “sick.” At least spell the word correctly.
    Anon – Why are you trying to instill your values on me? Because mine vary from yours or others on here does that make mine wrong or yours right? I know this post is going to fall on deaf eyes but it was worth a chance.

    I guess if you’re a homo hater, don’t call the military apparently they are stark full of gays, don’t call the Sheriff’s Office or the Fire Department either a homo might show up and save your ass or your house. The cashier at the store might like it too. They are people, just like everyone commenting on this thread; treat them how you would want to be treated. If you have a problem with the content, contact FlalgerLive don’t attack the content.

    • Kym Fiallos says:

      I see what you are saying!!!! It appalls me that people can be so ignorant, blind, and cruel. Who really cares who you sleep with? Is is not more important to be a decent honest member of society? Gay people are just like everyone else. The wake up in morning, they go to work, they come home to their families an enjoy their lives. WAKE UP PEOPLE, we are the same…..

  30. jespo says:

    Pierre may irritate me sometimes with his post commentary comments but it’s his site, if you don’t like it, or him, then take a walk. Thousands of years of religion have taught me one thing; it’s a poison that destroys what it touches and no benefits derived are worth the horrors that ensue devout worship. This little web page is indicative of that hatred and intolerance so profoundly ingrained in all religion. Christians, Muslims, Jews…all teach love but not for all…peace but not for all…respect but not for all…it’s all bullshit spoken by people full of bullshit who live bullshit lives and try to push their bullshit down others throats.

    This hatred of a gay soilder…where does it come from? Religion. This revulsion for a man who served his country, risking his own very life every day for others, willing to sacrafice it for the greater good, where does this come from? Religion. This desire to kill him, mock him, hide him from sight, shutter him away after his dedication to you, your country, your way of life…where does this need to deny him his right to live come from/ Religion. I am an American. This soilder is an American. To me, that trumps your religion any day of the week. If there’s anything, or anyone, that needs to shuttered away and blocked from sight, it’s those who would preach with love in one hand and a dagger in another.

  31. Outsider says:

    Give me a break….we’re not supposed to make any judgements of this picture? Really? “The Stars and Stripes’ worthiest kiss of the year.” That’s not a judgement? The problem you have is that we didn’t make the same judgement you made. Apparently, we’re supposed to agree with you, say “Aw that’s so cute,” and get a warm and fuzzy. Sorry, didn’t happen that way for me. Someone else suggested to not look at the picture if you don’t like it; kinda hard to do when it’s right there on the front page. And Nancy, you need to re-read what I wrote about being bored with opposite sex; you didn’t get the point on the first read.

  32. Outsider says:

    @ Anon: not sure if your question regarding adultery was directed at me or not, but the answer is, if you must know MY business: after 18 years, so far so good. ;)

  33. Anon says:

    @ Outsider… I’m glad your marriage is lasting. It was a general statement, not specific to anyone. Just a point I made.

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