A gay couple embraced and kissed Friday after a long Navy deployment, recreating the iconic “Kissing Sailor” photo, as a crowd at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville cheered and cameras recorded the moment.
"I was excited and I could not wait for it to happen," Navy soldier Bryan Woodington told Jacksonville news source News4Jax. "I knew I was going to dip him."
Married for a year, Bryan, 33, locked lips with his civilian husband Kenneth, 30, after the Navy sailor was stationed in the Persian Gulf and Europe for seven months.
"When he got off the ship, I lost all control, I just dropped everything and I just ran," Kenneth said.
The ceremonial first kiss onshore is determined by a lottery, after sailors’ spouses pay to enter a raffle, the proceeds of which are donated to a good cause, News4Jax reported.
Bryan and Kenneth Woodington outlucked 300 sailors aboard the USS The Sullivans.
“Bryan suggested that I wear all-white because he wanted to redo that famous photo, but he didn't know we won the lottery until the day he came home,” Kenneth said, according to The Daily Mail.
The ceremony is a part of every naval homecoming, but because the winner was Kenneth Woodington, of a same-sex couple, the kiss was met with a lot of attention and subsequently, significant backlash.
“How sad that your station has dropped to such a low as to show a gay couple kissing on your newscast," a caller told News4Jax.
“[I’ll] never watch your news again! So long, News4Jax," said another via e-mail.
"Thought this was a ‘family friendly’ news channel," another wrote to the local station.
"It didn’t really bother me," Kenneth told News4Jax on the backlash.
"Honestly, I’m the type of person who doesn’t really care that much about what people say," he went on to tell the news source.
"My grandmother always said, 'You know some people have a different life and this is how they are and you just have to treat them as such, and treat them with kindness and respect,'" Bryan said.
The couple has since said they’ve received more positive support than negative, and Bill Austin, spokesman for Naval Station Mayport, said a same-sex first kiss has happened before and it is not an issue for the Navy.
“I felt that he was very strong. He was just holding me tight. I’m not sure about the kiss,” the late Greta Zimmer Friedman, one of three women most attributed to receiving the original 1945 kiss, told The Library of Congress.
“It was just somebody celebrating. It wasn’t a romantic event,” Friedman went on to say.