US & Canada

US Navy lesbian couple share first gay dockside kiss

Two female US sailors have become the first same-sex couple to share the traditional dockside kiss since the US ended a ban on gays in the military.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, who had been at sea for 80 days, won the right to be the first person to kiss her partner on shore in a raffle.

The couple said the moment had been "a long time coming".

The US Army's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy was lifted in September, after years of debate.

The policy had barred openly gay men and women from serving in the military.

Crowds were waiting at the Virginia Beach docks in Virginia to greet loved ones arriving back on USS Oak Hill after a tour of duty in Central America.

They cheered as 23-year-old PO Gaeta walked off the ship and shared a brief kiss with her girlfriend of two years, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, 22.

Those at the docks had not known in advance that the traditional moment was to involve the couple, said the Associated Press news agency.

PO Gaeta told local media that crew members traditionally hold a raffle before coming back to shore, drawing names for "winners of first hugs and first kisses".

She said she had bought 50 raffle tickets at a $1 each, but that others had bought far more.

The couple, who met in training, said they were happy they could finally be honest about their relationship.

"It's nice to be able to be myself. It's been a long time coming," said PO Gaeta.

PO Snell said her partner had told her of the kiss a few days ago and she had "freaked out - in a good way".

"I'm a little nervous, you know. But I've been waiting since she left," she said.

A Navy spokeswoman told Reuters the military "doesn't really keep track of stuff like that" but that she believed this was the first same-sex homecoming kiss.

"To the Navy, (it was) really just a normal homecoming," said Ensign Sylvia Landis.

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