When U.S. sailor Bryan Woodington returned last week from deployment overseas, disembarking USS The Sullivans in Jacksonville, he kissed his husband of a year, Kenneth Woodington, for the first time in seven months.
The ceremonial first kiss for every naval homecoming is decided by lottery, with sailors’ spouses making charitable donations to enter, but this particular same-sex smooch landed a local news station in hot water, News4Jax reports.
“I was excited and I couldn’t wait for it to happen,” Bryan tells the station. “I knew I was going to dip him.”
“He got off the ship and I lost all control,” Kenneth says. “I just dropped everything and I just ran.”
While the lip-lock, which mimicked the famous 1945 V-J Day kiss in Times Square, was cheered at the Naval Station Mayport, News4Jax’s coverage incited outrage among conservative viewers who flooded the station with angry phone calls and emails.
“How sad that your station has dropped to such a low as to show a gay couple kissing on your newscast,” wrote one viewer.
“I thought this was a ’family friendly’ news channel,” wrote another.
“I’ll never watch your news again!!!!!”
“It didn’t really bother me,” says Kenneth of the negative comments, which were also made on Naval Station Mayport’s Facebook page. “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 adds.
The newlyweds, who believe this is a teaching moment, say they’ve largely received positive feedback and that the U.S. Navy has been completely accepting of their PDA.
Bill Austin, spokesman for Naval Station Mayport, tells News4Jax that a same-sex ceremonial first kiss has happened before and that the Navy “has always been gender-neutral and on the forefront of progress.”
Watch the News4Jax report below.