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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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Welcome home, and thank you for your outward homecoming kiss. I am 50 and was gay bashed in the 80's and 90's, and this photo and story give me courage that we will all share the same freedoms in our country. I am dumbfounded by all of the judgemental comments. I wish the nay sayers could walk in our shoes for just a week. Kudos to you both, stay happy and healthy, and thanks for helping making progress in our hopes of equality. Norman, Portland, OR

ATTENTION ALL QUEERS!!!! YOU LIVE IN A STRAIGHT WORLD, PENISES GO IN VAGINAS!!! (BUT TO EACH THIER OWN RIGHT?) YOUR PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION SHOULD BE KEPT BEHIND YOUR CLOSED CLOSET DOORS!!! WHEN PEOPLE FIND YOU ABNOXIOUS,FLAMBOUYANT, AND INTRUSIVE IT'S NOT BECAUSE YOU'RE A INTEGRAL INFLUENCE ON THE WORLD THAT PEOPLE FEAR AND LAMENT,IT'S BECAUSE YOU TRY TOO HARD TO GET NOTICED AND ACCEPTED BY EVERYONE. I KISS MY GIRLFRIEND IN PUBLIC WHEN IT'S APPROPRIATE AND WHEN THERE AREN'T TONS OF PEOPLE WATCHING US. IT'S NOT GOING TO BE A PUBLIC DISPLAY!!! (IT'S NOT A COMPETITION BETWEEN WHO LOVES MORE, THE GAY OR THE STRAIGHT) SHE KNOWS I LOVE HER WITHOUT BEING ALL UP ON EACH OTHER IN PUBLIC.(IT'S JUVENILE AND INNAPPROPRIATE TO GO FLAUNT YOURSELVES LIKE HORNY DOGS). IF YOU ALL DID NOT MAKE SUCH A SPECTACLE OUT OF YOURSELVES, NONE OF THIS " PERSECUTION OF THE GAYS " WOULD'VE EVEN HAPPENED. I HAVE A GAY UNCLE, HE DOES NOT KISS OR HOLD HANDS, THEY ARE COMFORTABLE ENOUGH IN THIER RELATIONSHIP THAT THEY DON'T NEED TO THROW IT IN EVERYONES FACE.

B -
Just give it a little time and reunions like this Marine and his partner will become a non-event. Please understand that with the years of secrets and keeping one's own life partner under wraps to avoid a pointless end to their careers that only detracts from the military's effectiveness; there is a lot of pent up emotion and a spotlight on these military personnel. As long as the looney haters on the supposed Far Right and the opportunists on the Far Left aren't allowed to direct the dialogue, the post-Don't Ask, Don't Tell period will subside back to normalcy and we can all move on and appreciate the contributions of all our armed forces.

Welcome home solider! =)

p.s. that kiss was hot & Im straight. lol.

Sleazy straight guys buy Girls Gone Wild to watch girls kiss each other. LOL. The girls are vile because they're doing it to please sleazy straight guys, and not for themselves. The straight guys who watch them are just as vile.

Witnessing - So you want gay people to stay in the closet because some people don't want to have have to talk to their kids? The "what do I tell my kids" argument is so very lame. I don't care what you tell them, that's up to you. I have to explain to my kid why some people will dislike her for no other reason than her skin color.

There are so many different people in this world. If we all had the ability to make invisible all the things that we disagree with, it would be a darn empty place.

And as to the founding fathers....they set down a foundation for a country that they knew would grow and change. That's why the Constitution is a living document.

Keep in mind these same men couldn't imagine women voting. None could probably imagine blacks in high office. Or women serving in the military. Or an eight hour work day. Or many other things we have today. How about interracial marriage. They certainly wouldn't have sanctioned that.

Me, I'd prefer to love than hate. That's just me. Live and let live baby.

And if I have to explain your hate to my daughter, so be it. That's my job.

The more I read the hateful, actually, WELL beyond hateful and bordering on psychotic comments from various heterosexuals, it occurs to me quite clearly that the 'intrinsically disordered' sexual orientation is not the group society has labeled as such, but rather, it was the group doing the labeling all along.

Life is funny like that.

Stay classy, heteros. ALWAYS stay classy!!

Freddie, it's hard to take someone complaining about attention-seeking seriously when he posts in all caps.

This will probably fall on deaf ears, but I invite you to examine your double standard. These two are kissing because one is back from combat after weeks away. That's a pretty good reason to kiss, and straight people having been doing as much in this context since long before the iconic WW2 photo in Times Square was taken. This story is a story, in fact, precisely because gay people have basically never before kissed in this particular cultural context.

Gay couples are a lot less flamboyant than straight people with public PDA. It sounds like you give you and your girlfriend a pass to do some public PDA, but you aren't offering the same leeway to these guys who have been apart for so long or even your gay uncle.

Freddie - Might I suggest that your uncle doesn't hold hands or kiss in public not because they are secure, but because people like you denounce it using all caps (really, did you mean to yell through all that?).

I think all couples should use restraint in public. I really do. I don't want to see either gay or straight couples all over each other in public.

However...come on! The guy was overseas for six months! Have a heart. Are you saying that if you were away for that period of time that you wouldn't have smooched your girlfriend right there? No way.

I hope your uncle becomes more comfortable some day. Tell him to move someone a bit more accepting.

I hate Public Displays of Affection........Whether it be with a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.......

Yet, these "Home Coming" photos and videos ALWAYS get me!!!! I ALWAYS shed a tear for the loved ones of soldiers who have been gone for months/years..Defending our country and our freedom (ALL OF OUR FREEDOM)!! My boyfriend is a Marine. He's home. I am extremely blessed for that fact. He has no problem with the gay's in the Military or in the world, and neither do I It doesnt hurt us for others to be in love.

OK, OK, OK.....The second picture with The SGT. straddling his boyfriend, is a bit much...Most likely caused by over excitement and pure joy....but I see nothing wrong with a photo of a "home coming kiss".

To everyone quoting the Bible: We are ALL God's Children. We are ALL sinners. The Lord died on a cross for ALL of us because he knew that we would be....HUMAN. ALL OF US!!! Remember THAT when youre persecuting these individuals, who obviously live a pretty good life.

God will destroy us soon, can't say that I blame him

B, how are you in a position to say how well don't ask don't tell has worked for gay officers ? they clearly ALL disagree with you 2. Have you noticed straight people kiss when they return from overseas ? does it bother you ?

These are two beautiful individuals and they are in love! One of them is fighting for your rights and liberties to be who you are and what you want to be. Don't you think since he is risking his life and limb to protect your rights he should have a few rights of his own?

Hate is what is disgusting. Hate is noxious and destroying.

Love makes the world go round!

Thank you for your service to this country! I love you both!

You people with the negative comments are whats disgusting. And if god destroys us yup its because of you. God loves all his children and Jesus does too. Is that not what your religion says? Oh wait no because you people change what your religion says every damn day! These two men are heros and I say good for them!!! God bless them!!! God bless all straight, bisexual, homosexual and transexual people!!!!

No matter what teh haters say..love always wins! I want to thank both of those handsome men for reminding us of that fact. God was smiling at them as they shared such a powerful moment of reunion! Amen! Keep it up!

The people who react negatively to this story are the same people who would deny other rights which throughout history has led to the oppression and/or subjugation and enslavement of entire races. For those offended by the picture or the story itself...how have you served our country, besides sitting back and passing judgment on the men and women who have volunteered to do so?

You are the ones who are sickening!

One of these brave men served his country in a foreign, RELIGIOUS country that mutilates girls who want an education and self determination. He's protecting the rights and freedoms of his fellow citizens that HE can't have equally at home. The world is full of hate, insecurity and violence.
There are plenty of online news photos of bloody bodies torn apart by bombs and bullets.
Yet, there are damn fools who think it's worth saying that two men who share a much deserved kiss, is disgusting?!
Our world wearing of threat and violence NEEDS love in it SO BAD, that when someone IS kissing, showing their love for another human being, it's like BALM to me and apparently most other people.

I find this display of love HEALING, as ALL love should be. If only the world were more like these two men, one wouldn't have had to separate from the other in WAR in the first place.
Love is joy. These good brave men, give ME JOY.
I thank them for that, and their sacrifice of separation and physical risk so that I can TELL it to them.
Who did Brandon's mother raise?
One of THE bravest men that ever wore the uniform. He loves his mother, his family, his country and his boyfriend.
What's NOT to love about them all?

In the begining God created~Adam and Eve,not Adam and Steve!So sad!!

Love it! Finally "reason" over "hate".
A big deep kiss in the mouth to all the haters who don't like this.

To all the haters this man served his country just like any other enlisted service man. Respect him and get over your redneck and old fashion bull s**t..This man is no diffrent than any other service man so GET OVER It!!!!!!!!

I have nothing against gays and support their right to marry.

But I cannot understand what pleasure would somebody have from being an***y penetreated.

There will be a lot of sick, negative, homophobic bigot remarks on this home coming.
To are those people who fall into the above description. Gay and lesbians are citizens of the United States and are endowed with the same equality of rights that you enjoy. It is actually wrong to deny them of their rights as it would be to deny you of your endowed rights because you are a homophobic bigot. Gay and lesbians coming out openly is a positive blessing as there will be less coerced heterosexual marriages of gays and lesbians which will inevitably result in devoice and many times with children involved. Just as Morgan stated it was a serious mistake for him to marry a woman. To the bigots, what you all are saying with all you negative comments are that your faith in your religion and/or your sexuality is so weak that you must force others to be like you. Jesus spoke of simplicity and that was LOVE. This country is falling deeper and deeper into hate because people like you all refuse to “Stand on the Side of Love”. May The Blessings Be.

Thanks for your service to our country. Everyone should mind their own business and let other people tend to theirs. The world is made up of all different people, and who is to say that some are correct and some are not. I say keep your apoinions to yourself.

to quote a prior submission:
"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?"
Simply put, parents don't have to explain anything to the children these days, as children in todays world have been brought up with this type of interaction, moreso than any other period in our history...most children are aware of male/male or female/female relationships and many live in these types of homes and accept it as do their friends...you sound like it's not right...i mean, what would you say to your children if because they're white & at a homecoming, if you saw blacks or yellows or reds also at the homecoming, because they're different from you and yours, would you say then..."how are those parents supposed to explain this to them"...I think not...a person can't help being born gay any more than they can help being born white, or black or what ever colour ones skin is...so just accept it & be glad for them.

I think it's great that they can kiss openly! What a cute love story. I'm glad there are children in the background who may have witnessed it. Perhaps they'll grow up to be unbiased and caring!

This photo brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful story.

Pay no attention the hate mongers. Over time sanity will overcome!

i don't give an''' f''but these two guy are weir what a shame that i have to see like a big deal hell with it

if you feel this is wrong...pray for those you think are wrong....do unto others....

Armando, I'm not really sure how to respond to your question, other than to say it has about as much to do with affectational orientation as any heterosexual sex act has to do with a man falling in love with a woman. It's just a piece, and not even one always engaged in. Moreover, I hear it's a straight thing too. Ask Howard Stern.

Fake and gay.

what next a men marry his dog what a shame what you guys doing is wrong

TO ALL YOU HILLBILLY,NEDNECK,BIGOTS.WHY DON'T YOU GO BACK TO 1950 AND SHUV SANTORUN,ROMNEY AND GIGRICH UP YOU a**,AND IF THERS ENOGHT ROOM BUSH AND CHAINEY. GUST YOUS YOUR MA'S BACON GREASE AND THEY SHOULD ALL FIT....LOL

I hope they have a great life together, and I appreciate his service. Tolerance and empathy is an issue of intelligence. Obviously most of the Americans that posted here lack that.

Straight Pride: The Founding Fathers owned slaves. The world turned after they died two hundred and fifty or so years ago, you know?

Dear Herald,
Please take down those nasty pictures from this page. Our children read your newspapers too and they don't have to see those nauseating images.I can't believe that those 2 bastards took those images in front of a great US flag. What a shame!

It makes me want to vomit. We can only hope a new administration rids us of all these.

Regan D. Your comment beings to mind of what Rick Santorum is proposing for this country if he is president. One that will resemble a religious control government, Sharia Law, in USA. Santorum even stated that it made him sick when he read President Kennedy's position church and state. That religion should not be involved in controlling government. Yes I guess it would make him sick as Rick is a Fascist.

to xBARx, It was not long ago that an interracial couple would have not been permitted to show their affection or love in public and in the Southern States they were forbidden by statue or constitutional law to even marry. I was raised in the area of such hate. The bigotry was federally unconstitutional then as it is now against homosexual oriented people. "Standing on the Side of Love"

Sorry Tony, your post is as evil as the people it is aimed. Learn to be civil in your comments and joined not the cesspool of ill breads. "Stand on the Side of Love" as Jesus.

Manny, Just another hateful Santorum homophobic bigoted lack of substance remark. You have indicated that you are not comfortable with you sexuality or your faith in your religion.

don't they know you can't plug a plug into a plug? simple physics.. thank you obama for giving us some material.. fudge packers

Online - "... We can only hope a new administration rids us of all these."

What exactly did you mean by that? I hope to God you're not suggesting a Nazi-esq "FINAL SOLUTION".

That would certainly disrespect all those men who died in World War II preventing that kind of world order.

Or are you instead suggesting a Taliban solution? Torture, mutilate, rape (But the guards raping the gay man aren't gay, they're just following orders) and finally murder the suspected gay man?

That would show all those soldiers (Straight and gay) who are fighting the Taliban just how much you respected them.

Please, I hope you simply forgot a word or two. Like "Public displays" at the end of your statement.

Assuming you made a typo, then I cheerfully submit for your consideration;

the toothpaste is out of the tube.
the genie is out of the bottle.
these eggs are scrambled.
the cat is out of the bag.
... or whatever euphemism you're most familiar with.

A change of administration isn't going to change anything regardless of the candidates assertions to the contrary.

It's sad how hypocritical and hateful so many people are. "This photo is nasty"... Why? Two guys sharing a harmless kiss? Grow up. It's not nasty, its love. Two straight people can kiss upon returning from service so why can't these two? American's need to get over their small lives and small beliefs and realize that people in this country can be different from them and its not sad, or dangerous, or anything.

Terry I agree with you but it seems like it is allways the same type. before you know it you bring your self down to ther level.But thats all they understand...and IDO STAND BY THE LOVE OF jesus..but I still can't take this backwoods attitude.

hey why would anyone care as long it doesn't interfer with your personal life? people need to feel comfortable with themselves and others they love. sex is sex and if your a homophobe or lesiiphobe you should give it a try. men know what men like! as do women. according to men..women on women is fine! get a grip literally too much reprodution in the world! lost of people should not be parents...but as far as being in service..wtf...he protected us and our country... the rest CFU!

f...ing GROSS!

I, AS A WWII COMBATANT MARINE VETEREN, WITH 2 COMBAT STARS ON MY SOUTH PACIFIC RIBBON AND A PRESIDENTIAL GROUP CITATION, CAN NOT ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALES AND LESBIANS
IN THE US MARINE CORPS. WHAT HAS BECOME OF THIS GREAT TRADITIONAL COMBAT UNIT???

Sick, disgusting, maybe the Marines will use this as a campaign poster. The Few, The Proud, The Queer

this is America not gaymerica. make your own island and make your own military this is a disgrace. Now the people around the world really have something to laugh at!!!!!! goodness gracious!!! and people say this guy Morgan fighting for our RIGHTS???? get out here he was probably behind a desk pushing papers!!!! This should have been with the advertisment portion of the news paper way in the back!!!!

Thank you, Sgt. Morgan for your service. I'm happy that you're home safe. Semper Fi! It's a great picture.

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