A Jacksonville-area TV station received a deluge of negative comments after airing footage of a gay sailor and his spouse kissing.
The couple, Bryan and Kenneth Woodington, participated in the ceremonial “first kiss,” a tradition in which one Naval service member and their spouse kiss and embrace to mark a unit’s return from overseas deployment.
Bryan, a sailor aboard the USS The Sullivans, returned with 300 fellow sailors to Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville just before the Christmas holiday, after spending seven months in the Middle East, reports local TV station News4Jax.
The first kiss is decided by lottery, in which sailors’ spouses donate to a good cause to enter a raffle. Kenneth won, and when Bryan walked off the gangway ahead of his fellow sailors, the two embraced and kissed. For good measure, Bryan dipped Kenneth in a way that paid homage to the iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in New York City following Japan’s surrender in August 1945, which marked the end of World War II.
“I was excited and I could not wait for it to happen,” Bryan said. “I knew I was going to dip him.”
The Woodingtons have been married for about a year.
But while the kiss was greeted with cheers from the sailors and their loved ones, News4Jax was jeered on social media and in emails for deciding to air footage of the same-sex first kiss.
“How sad that your station has dropped to such a low as to show a gay couple kissing on your newscast,” one viewer wrote.
“I’ll never watch your news again!!!! So long, News4Jax,” another wrote.
“I thought this was a ‘family friendly’ news channel,” a third wrote.
Internet users also posted negative comments on Naval Station Mayport’s Facebook page.
Kenneth Woodington says he’s aware of the negative comments but isn’t bothered by them, adding: “Honestly, I’m the type of person who doesn’t really care that much about what people say.”
“My grandmother always taught me, she 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 Woodington told News4Jax.
Both men say they’ve received more positive than negative feedback and that the Navy has been very supportive and accepting.
Bill Austin, a spokesman for Naval Station Mayport, told News4Jax that a same-sex first kiss has happened before and is not an issue for the Navy.
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