The day before the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, both ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday took the time to celebrate the first time that a same-sex couple won the U.S. Navy's lottery that allows their welcome home kiss to be featured as the first photographed kiss. ABC substitute anchor George Stephanopoulos read a short item on the subject:
And we saw this remarkable image today that puts a new twist on an old Navy tradition. For the first time, two women sailors shared the traditional first kiss that marks a Navy ship's return home. It happened when the U.S.S. Oak Hill docked in Virginia Beach after 80 days at sea and was made possible by the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the rule that prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. There is a first.
Before running a full report putting a positive spin on President Obama's role in repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a year ago, NBC anchor Brian Williams also featured the kiss:
Tomorrow will mark one year to the day that President Obama signed the repeal of the U.S. military policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, banning openly gay and lesbian service members. And just today, a sign of the times. Two women shared the traditional first kiss after the U.S.S. Oak Hills returned to home port in Virginia.
Sailors and their families buy dollar raffle tickets for the chance at it, and those two women happened to win it. Critics said changing this law would never work in the real world of combat. Tonight, NBC's Jim Maceda takes one measure of the change on the ground with some of America's troops in Afghanistan.
NBC correspondent Jim Maceda's report then focused on placing a positive spin on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
JIM MACEDA: Task Force Bulldog, on patrol in eastern Afghanistan. It's the kind of combat unit that would implode, critics warned, if Don't Ask, Don't tell were repealed. But the chaos they predicted if openly gay and lesbian soldiers served in close quarters during combat never happened.
STAFF SERGEANT CHRIS BOSTICK, U.S. ARMY: I don't think anything's really changed at all.
MACEDA: Staff Sergeant Chris BostiCk is on his third combat tour, a squad leader.
BOSTICK: Every single one of my soldiers knows that I'm gay, and they know who I am and what I stand for.
MACEDA: And how do his straight buddies see it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: If you want to fight for our country, I don't care what you do, you know, that's how it should be.
MACEDA: The repeal divided the military when a year ago President Obama lifted the ban on gays, lesbians and bisexuals serving openly. But now, soldiers from grunts to top brass - even U.S. Marines - have actively embraced the law. And so far, no reports of any incidents like hazing or gay bashing. Behind front lines at large bases like Bagram Airfield, groups of gays and lesbians now meet publically. A coffee hour unheard of only months ago.
Does it become easier to be a soldier?
SPECIALIST SPENCER ROUGIER, MILITARY POLICE: Definitely. Just knowing that you're not gonna be kicked out or have difficulties because of what you say.
MACEDA: 13,000 gays were discharged during Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the old stigma runs deep. Half of this group of gays asked to conceal their identity, worried about reaction among peers. But hundreds, perhaps thousands of gay soldiers have recently posted their own coming out videos on YouTube, often to their own families.
RANDY PHILLIPS, U.S. AIR FORCE: Dad, I'm gay.
MACEDA: This phone call home by airman Randy Phillips based in Germany to tell his parents he's gay went viral - more than five million hits. Erin Jones, a Navy Petty Officer, now tells anyone who asks that she's lesbian.
PETTY OFFICER ERIN JONES, U.S. NAVY: I always felt like a part of me died every time I had to say, like, oh, my boyfriend, oh, this guy I've been talking to when I didn't mean that.
MACEDA: Even commanders like Marine General James Amos, once against lifting the ban during wartime, now support it.
BOSTICK: I do find that I'm a little more proud of my unit and my country for taking this kind of a step.
MACEDA: Allowing soldiers - straight or gay - to excel as they always have in war, but now to do it freely. Jim Maceda, NBC News, Logar, Afghanistan.