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Gay marine, partner reflect on first kiss seen around the globe: 'The world went away for a few minutes'

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

A kiss is just a kiss unless you're a couple of strapping hunks and one is a U.S. Marine coming home from war to his male partner.

Then a Facebook photo of the big smooch goes viral and becomes a news event covered around the world.

Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan returned Feb. 22 from Afghanistan to Hawaii and jumped into partner Dalan Wells' arms. (Morgan is 5-feet 11-inches tall; Wells is 6-foot-6.)

A friend, David Lewis, photographed the family reunion.

"With all that was going on, we didn’t even know he was there taking pictures," Morgan says. "The world went away for a few minutes."

Morgan later posted the homecoming photos on his personal Facebook page and a friend then reposted the pictures on the Gay Marines page.

Within hours Sunday, the main photo had thousands of views and had been reposted on countless other pages. News stories ran worldwide. As of Tuesday, it had about 37,000 Facebook "likes" and nearly 9,000 comments.

"I can only imagine that it went viral because we were the first men to kiss," Morgan says. Shortly after the U.S. military ended it's gay ban late last year, two female Navy petty officers publicly kissed at a Virginia homecoming ceremony.

One of the couple's Facebook friends sent at critical message to Morgan's mother, driving her to tears.

"What did you do to mess up as a mother to make him do this?" read the comment.

Says Morgan, a Christian who grew up in Oakdale, Calif., near Modesto: "She loves me and my sister, who's a lesbian. She said, if you don't like my children and how I raised them, I don't care. My mother is awesome!"

Morgan, 25, and Wells, 38, have been dating about a month-and-a half and that they've known each other a few years.

"I honestly knew I was in love with him from the first moment I met him," Morgan says, adding that before he came out he had made "a lot of mistakes," including marrying a woman.

During Morgan's six months in Afghanistan, "there was nonstop letter writing every day."

Wells, an oil painter in Oahu, says that when Morgan first asked him out, he said no.

"I didn’t know how much he loved me and how much I was in love with him," Wells says.

The photographed kiss was their first, says Morgan, who re-enlisted in the Marines in October and plans to stay in the military about 3 1/2 more years.

The men say they plan to work with the gay military group Outserve.

Wells says he's not bothered by the sudden fame. "I’m a very shy person," Wells says. "If this helps one troubled teen and gives them hope for the future, if I can help, I will."

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Steve, he grew up in Oakdale, not Oakland. The difference between the two is like the difference between Miami and an old North Florida town. Love the interview though!

This is nauseating..It is a shame what this once great nation has become.

This is what the sickness of Liberalism will do.

A la lucha... a la lucha...
No somos machos... pero somos muchas!

Sick, degrading, and deviant behavior. these low life's need to be dishonorably discharged from the Marines.

Since we've already seen what the sickness of hatred can do, I say bring on the liberalism!! It's wonderful that people can find love and happiness in a world that is so full of anger and tyranny.

welcome home. thanks for your service. have a good life.

That picture is nasty!!
Shame on you Miami Herald!

Great Article, These guys are great and I wish them all the happiness in the world.

To those of you who've described this homecoming as "nauseating, sick, degrading" etc. I've got two things to say.

1 I applaud your courage in reading a gay publication.
2 You do realize you're essentially coming down on the side of oppression don't you?

Why would you deny two consenting adults their personal "pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness" as described in the Declaration of Independence?

Have these two adults done anything to deny you your own pursuit of the same? I think not. One of them is willingly and actively working to protect those very rights for you.

Perhaps you should think about that before you seek to deny freedoms from your fellow citizens.

Haters hate, and the world goes on. Thank you for your service, Sgt. Morgan! You are a courageous individual.

I stand corrected... Gay South Florida is published by The Miami Herald. Impressive... The Miami Herald deserves kudos.

The remainder of what I said, I stand by.

WTF keep it in the closet and to yourselves

It's about time! Thank you guys for your service to our country! Don't mind the nastiness among the civilian population. That's just our homegrown Talibans venting their views.

Thanks for your service. The tide is turning. People like you are helping it turn. Don't listen to the hatred! You are loved, respected, and appreciated by hundreds of thousands of people!!!

Ducat,

You don't seriously think that this is what the founding fathers had in mind, do you? If so, you are seriously delusional.

I tell you what, CWO2 Ireland, when you keep all handholding, kisses, media coupling, and discussion of your romantic life to yourself, then we as gay people will do the same. Here's a better idea though: let's all just be ourselves, and give each other the freedom to be in love with another consenting adult.

Yuck! You have ruined my lunch.

This is a wonderful story and I appreciate all the great comments and thank you for serving our county.

IF there were any doubt left, America is on a severe decline.

Just a matter of time before we lose it.

Gross. Another reason to vote against Obama.

If this same Marine had been in the paper because he killed soldiers in war, the same people hating now would have called him a hero. You call him sick for being in love, but would praise him for killing a man? That's twisted.

Doesn't matter what the haters say. It's great to see a brave marine returning to his partner. Both have far more character and love than any of the haters commenting here. Good for you boys!

HURAHHH MARINE WELCOME HOME - as for the "nay sayers" - if you can not stand behind our troops - YOU are welcome to stand in FRONT of them!

Uh Ray, you can't be a homosexual and have character. Having character means having moral and ethical qualities. That kinda leave sexual deviants off the list.

Welcome home to Sgt. Morgan! Thank you for all you have done by serving our country. I salute you and your family. May God bless you and Mr. Wells. I hope that the 2 of you have a long, happy life together. In this world full of hate, anger and ignorance, it is a beautiful thing to see 2 people who love eachother!

STRAIGHT PRIDE HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT NONE OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS WERE HOMOSEXUAL?
MAYBE YOUR HOMOPHOBIA IS HIDING SOMETHING MORE SINISTER!
NOT PHOBIC

i almost threw up!

The problem here is everyone is going to see this differently. It doesn't matter what we humans think because these two gentlemen are going to face bigger problems than facebook publication; they are going to face God. There is nothing right or OK with this picture. Its not OK to praise them for being a "courageous gay". Its not OK to think this is good parenting. This is not OK and who cares what the constitution says or doesnt say because no one really follows it anyway. Its people like this that have completely corrupted America and what it was supposed to stand for. Excuse me....I have to go throw up now.

I am undeniably grateful to you for your courage in serving this country. I am proud to be an American citizen. Welcome home, and all the best to your happiness!

you guys didnt want to do that! all you wanted was attention next time take the press to your house!

I almost just got sick reading these negative comments. Who are you to judge anyone? NOBODY. If you don't like it, don't read it. It's people like YOU 'Straight Pride','Herbie','JJ','Guavaman','CWO2 Ireland' and 'Vic' that breed the type of hate that causes war in the first place. Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan is putting his life on the line every day to protect you, and for THAT, you should give thanks to him instead of criticizing his personal life which has absolutely nothing to do with you anyway. Get a life.

So many haters..so many in the closet. Thank you Sgt. for protecting all of us--including the homophobic bigots.

I didn't bother to read this article. The picture alone is very obnoxious. This is what God meant when he said the abomination that cause desolation.

Straight Pride.

That is an interesting question and regrettably one that I doubt we'll ever have a definitive answer to.

Our founding fathers were however clearly opposed to oppression and tyranny.

(The obvious exception being that some of the founding fathers participated in the slave trade. I would submit that their participation in slavery was based in ignorance and the successful dehumanization, or perhaps better put, failure to recognize the humanity of an entire group of people.)

We all agree today that slavery was wrong. We also pretty much agree that the dehumanization of select groups of people is wrong and leads to bad outcomes. (See dictators from most time periods the world over for plentiful examples.) The founding fathers would no doubt agree.

The point is this.

I would choose to believe that the men who wrote those great words meant them to be inclusive of everyone.

The founding fathers were not idiots. They were no doubt bound by their religious upbringing to be very conservative. I believe the founding fathers would have viewed homosexuality with some distaste.

At the same time, I think that their belief in freedom of choice, liberty, and personal responsibility would have trumped their distaste. Especially if they were looking at the world today.

I suspect that the Founding Fathers would have been far more disturbed by the suspension of certain constitutional protections we have seen over the past decade, than they would be about equality for gay people. (That is an entirely different discussion, for another day.)

I am reminded of something my father used to say;

"It is my duty to defend the rights of everyone. Even those people with whom I disagree right to my very soul. To do anything less is to undo the foundations of our freedom."

I believe that with all my heart.

There has to be a line drawn here. Look at the children in the background...how are those parents supposed to explain this to them? "its ok hunny, they just REALLY REALLY love each other..." Is this our solution to stop reproduction...everyone be Gay and proud. Does anyone notice that minorities always have to make it known they are a minority? Instead of being so proud of yourselves for being Gay....be proud to protect people and leave your personal lives out of it. GEEEEZZZZ PEOPLE!!! NO MORE OBAMA!!!!

Just a couple of clarifications: 1st God is a god of Love and 2nd Obama doesn't make people gay.

Great story!!!

Straight Pride and other haters: It doesn't bother you that the soldier is a Marine. No, just that he is gay. If he were a straight man rushing home to his woman, you would not have a word to say about this. He defended you and this country. What more can you ask? Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend...and his country and its citizens.

SP, you say that gays don't have character, morals, ethical qualities, etc., etc. Yeah, we know, just like you straight Christians love saying that gays need to find God. Here's a reality check: they don't need to find Him. They already have FOUND Him. You would say, tho, that you can't have God and be gay. Well, the same thing is said about a lot of other people too. It's just not true. John 3:16 reminds us all that "For God so loved the world...." That's right ALL of the world. Each person just needs to believe in God and that's it. Yet, you people set yourselves up as experts about what is best for another human being. Read your Bible. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Whatsoever you doeth unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto God. Jesus commands you to love one another. Of course, that will never happen because, obviously, the Bible must not mean gay people. Yeah, right. YOU don't have an exclusive contract with God and you don't get to say who can be of good character, have morals, and so on. This is something that only God can decide. You do not get to boss Him around neither. Don't bother to pray for me to see this differently; pray that God's will shall be done. Get it?

If you think gay sex is gross, that's fine. We all got different hobbies. I think anchovies are gross, but I'm not making political decisions based on that. I think being a capitalist is morally repugnant, but I'm not posting vicious comments on the Wall Street Journal's website. I think people who read celebrity gossip are contributing to the decline of our civilization, but I'm not calling them deviants to their faces.

Grow up, y'all. Just because you and your church don't like something doesn't mean it should be illegal. You don't see Jews trying to make pork illegal. Know why? Because Jews are decent people.

Beautiful....just Beautiful! When you have been away from the one you love for a week, 6 months a year or whatever, your emotions and love for each other just simply wipe out everything else....such a beautiful, natural photo. CHEERS!

Jonathan, thank you. In Leviticus, it DOES say that eating pork and seafood is an abomination. So is men cutting their hair and shaving. So is being gay, it says. OK, but why is it that it's totally cool to have pork, seafood, and to shave and have a neat haircut and not for someone to be gay. Thanks for reminding me of this hypocrisy that straights indulge in. lol

If homosexuality is OK because it's a matter between two consenting adults, then why isn't incest between consenting adults legal? Or murder between consenting adults? I could go on, but what's the point.

Live and let live... there are certainly bigger issues in the world today than who is sleeping with who. There are many dysfunctional heterosexual couples, as long as they are happy, who cares? They have to answer for what they do, not you or me. Do I think being gay is "right"? Not really, but for that reason I am not gay, and I will defend your right to do as you wish because that is what this country is about. He is fighting for my right to stay free, so I think I can grant him the same courtesy even if I don't agree with what he does. He doesn't judge me, yet is willing to die for me, so I think I can overlook who he loves and sleeps with. This is his business. For those of you who blame Obama, you are just showing how silly your are. Were there no gays in the military under Bush? Watch out, your ignorance is showing!

Whatever homophobes.....I'm hetrosexual and say let people live thier lives....thank you to the Marine who put his life on the line for my a%s.

If there's such a thing as reincarnation, I can only hope that some of the haters will be born gay in the next life. Loving another man-- deeply, soulfully loving -- is in the very fiber of who I am. Why are some percentage of people born gay? I have no idea, but it's reality in every country and culture of the world, no matter how repressive and homophobic. I am in longterm relationship with another man. Our lives as American taxpayers as boring as yours. nother (obviously) consenting adult. Would you rather I married a woman and made two lives miserable instead? I get that you can't relate to being gay, but I hope someday you'll take on faith what millions of people know firsthand: it's real, it's natural for us, we are not an "other," and we just want to live our lives like you do.

I'm all for gay marriage, etc.....but this just looks wrong.

It's funny how straight guys like to look at lesbians but not gay men kissing. LOL. It proves that straight guys are hypocrites with no credibility.

hahaha....I'm not even pissed two dudes are kissing. I'm just pissed the Marine is the catcher.

Peter, how can you be for gay marriage and think that this look wrong? Married people kiss, you know. Anyway, appreciate the support.

Straight guys are such hypocrites. They apparently like to watch two women kiss but, if it's two guys, all hell breaks loose. Hypocrites, the lot of you.

First off I am a combat veteran Marine and could care less about the sexual orientation of any service member. When rounds come down range all I care about is I can trust the guy next to me to do his job. With that said... You do not join the military to profess your sexual preference. Don't ask, don't tell has work perfectly fine for a long time. The problem I have is that this has to be such a big deal/story. Who really cares? Do what you want. Don't push your opinion or views on me keep it to yourself.

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