The gay kiss as political weapon

This is actually quite interesting. TIME magazine chose as its cover this week, two different covers – one showing a gay couple kissing, the other showing a lesbian couple kissing.

Just as significant, the headline “Gay Marriage Already Won: The Supreme court hasn’t made up its mind — but America has.”

Why is this a “wow”? Because newspapers and magazines get hell for posting photos of gay couples kissing. It shouldn’t be a “thing,” but it is a thing.


The kiss has been quite a powerful political weapon in the gay arsenal for a while now. And checking our archives, it’s rather amazing how important the “gay kiss” has been to our political struggle over the years. Here are a few incidents you might recall.

The “first” Gay Kisses

Roseanne’s lesbian kiss in 1994:

First gay kiss on Primetime as Adam and Ethan kiss on Dawson’s Creek in 2000:

The first gay kiss on daytime television in 2007  on “As the World Turns” between Luke and Noah – it’s really cute:

Adorable Gay Kisses

The lesbian Navy couple that that got the “first kiss” off the boat right after DADT was repealed:

The adorable Marine couple and their adorable homecoming kiss that flew around the world at light speed, and the Marines’ great response when asked about it:

The Amazing Race boys doing their big old kiss on prime time TV a few months back:


The time the SF Giants Kiss-Cam went gay.

ESPN’s bowling kiss.


And here’s the video of the ESPN kiss, start watching at about 2 minutes in – it’s adorable:

Gay Kisses that caused a scandal

The time the Mormons arrested a gay couple for kissing near their temple.

The Chicago bus driver who allegedly threw a gay couple off a bus for kissing.

When Southwest Airlines booted the L-Word star off a flight for kissing her girlfriend.

The time the Denver Post (just the other week) got into trouble for publishing a gay kiss, and then defended it.

UK PM Cameron supported banning gay kisses before 9pm on the tele.

When ABC canceled Adam Lambert’s scheduled appearance after his much-televised gay kiss that the CBS Early Show blurred to “protect” its viewers:

The time Facebook banned a gay kiss (and then corrected itself).

The Gay Kiss as political weapon

And the gay people who responded to Mormon hate with a growing number of kiss-ins.

The Spaniards who greeted the Pope with a kiss-in.

Paris Kiss-ins:


The gay kiss that disrupted the Santorum rally.

The guys kicked out of a taco place in El Paso, Texas for kissing.

The 74 year old gay protester arrested for kissing an anti-gay preacher on the cheek.

The Spanish gay boys who kissed on Al Jazeera to protest their new anti-gay right wing government:


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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37 Responses to “The gay kiss as political weapon”

  1. Clevelandchick says:

    The right to marry has nothing to do with sex and I guess that’s why I have an issue with the Time covers. I am not shocked or upset at the image of same sex couples kissing – they’re actually beautiful pictures. But I also know imagery has a powerful effect and the covers imply sex not necessarily love and commitment, the essential components of marriage. IMO, the purpose of the imagery is to titillate, not educate.

    Would Time bother to put a straight couple making out on their cover in a story about heterosexual marriage? Of course not. I understand the political weapon aspect but personally I think it would be more effective and frankly more representative of the reality of their lives to depict them in a more mainstream image. None of my gay friends in committed relationships (or straight friends either for that matter) walk around in public macking on each other. They hold hands, give pecks on the cheek, hug etc..just like ‘the straights’ lol.

  2. caphillprof says:

    It has never been about the sex; it has always been about the intimacy.

  3. Connemara says:

    The first lesbian (or maybe it should be classified as bisexual) kiss was on La Law in 1991 between Abby and CJ Lamb….3 years before Rosanne’s kissing of another woman!

  4. Bachelard says:

    I love your original post here. I’ve always been pretty indifferent to the gay marriage movement. And then I saw the looks couples gave one another during that period in San Francisco when the mayor ordered city hall to issue marriage licenses. Just the sheer beauty of those people’s gazes turned me into a vocal supporter. This post, with all the kisses, does something of the same.

    However, I will never agree with your contention that self-presentation matters so much in the gay rights movement. I’d still love to see your evidence of that. I certainly know the costumed androgynes embarrass you and many other gay people. But I think that has much more to do with people’s feelings about themselves than about the alleged effect on the public.

    You say yourself that only one person stood out in a way that you think is inappropriate — and yet you’re turning it into something significant. Please, please show us some evidence that images like this sabotage our movement.

  5. Freedonian says:

    Beside the hell that it already is?

  6. d3clark says:

    Oddly, a Catholic high school in NY, run by the Jesuits, is allowing a male couple to attend its ball. And the president of the school cites the Pope’s remarks from his Inaugural Mass as leading him to make this decision. However, I think that the RCC hierarchy will wade into this and make the priest’s life hell.

  7. Freedonian says:

    Does anybody else remember another ‘first’, when Kirk kissed Uhura on Star Trek, the first inter-racial kiss on national TV. Same suspects threw out the same garbage then. The more things change the more they stay the same.

  8. d3clark says:

    Even the Reverend Rush gave marriage his “blessing.”

    From the HuffPo:

    “Limbaugh was reacting to the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
    He said that opponents of gay marriage are being told that “the country
    is changing and you better get with it and understand it. The genie is
    not getting put back in the bottle.”

    “And I think that’s right,” Limbaugh declared. “I don’t care what
    this court does with this particular ruling, Proposition 8. I think the
    inertia is clearly moving in the direction that there is going to be gay
    marriage at some point nationwide.”

  9. dmhlt_66 says:

    What about Norm being kissed on both cheeks (and those cheeks were ABOVE the beltline) at Cheers in “The Boys in the Bar”

  10. karmanot says:

    What can you expect from Catholics who believe in virgin birth?

  11. That’s the while reason we’re performing in the first place :-)

  12. BeccaM says:

    It kind of depended on the network. Fox liked to push the line as far as ‘sexy-time’ stuff was concerned, but anything that might offend their right-wing viewers remained taboo for a long time. They even kicked up a fuss when Willow and Tara were shown sleeping in the same bed, albeit very demurely dressed, although Whedon prevailed.

    Nerd-Girl Super Fun Fact: The one episode of Firefly (another Whedon show) never aired, “Heart of Gold,” featured a whorehouse where the Serenity crew was offered both female and male companionship. The madame operating the brothel, Nandi, even makes it clear to Cap’t Reynolds that he’s welcome to enjoy her “boys” if he’s “sly” (future word for gay, I suppose). He replies, “Sly? No. I lean towards
    womenfolk.” (His real reason, of course, is he’s hopelessly in love with Inara.)

  13. BeccaM says:

    Apparently the RCC values viral and bacterial STD life more than human life.

    It would explain much about their centuries of history…

  14. JozefAL says:

    For what it’s worth, the first male same-sex kiss on television preceded “Dawson’s Creek” by quite some time. A 1998 episode of “That 70s Show” called “Eric’s Buddy.” Eric becomes friends with a young man named Buddy (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and, at one point, while they’re in Buddy’s car, Eric mentions he forgot to call Donna which leads to a conversation where Buddy tells Eric “It’s okay to be confused.” As Eric’s trying to describe his relationship with Donna, Buddy leans over closer and closer, before planting a kiss on Eric’s lips. Eric sort of flips out but it still came out before the “Dawson’s” episode.

    I’ve got no problem with the “Dawson’s” episode being described as the first “romantic” gay kiss on primetime but it wasn’t the first. (Even “Will & Grace” had a “political” gay kiss a couple of months before the “Dawson’s” episode aired. The episode “Acting Out” shows Will kissing Jack in front of Al Roker–who’d presided over a real-life case on “The Today Show” in 1999.)

  15. nicho says:

    We, of course, will not have full rights until we can just live our lives and not have to temper our dress, behavior, actions, and statements to achieve some PR “goal.” As long as we’re always performing for the media, we are not free.

  16. PeteWa says:

    it was more of an internal controversy from the way I remember / understand it… and very strange since, as you had posted, the Dawson’s Creek kiss had already broken that ice…

  17. Drew2u says:

    Please, I still do “eww” and the eye-covering thing to my family during any PDA when we go to theaters :p

  18. Drew2u says:

    I can only imagine how long they stood there for the photo-op while people fussed around them making sure everything was alright for camera before the cam op started taking pictures…

  19. nicho says:

    I’d wear a tutu to these events myself.

    I think I’ve figured out a way for you to raise money for AmericaBlog. If you raise $X by such and such a date, you will appear in public in a pink tutu. Checkbooks and pens are standing by.

  20. karmanot says:

    “I’d wear a tutu to these events’ OMG! That was you?—–very handsome.

  21. karmanot says:

    That wasn’t Notre Damn was it?

  22. karmanot says:

    Big smile on my face!

  23. Actually, I’m a big fan of tailoring your behavior for PR purposes at the appropriate place and time. There’s a reason that good photo opps work. In the protests my friends, and mentors, planned in the 1990s on disability issues, for example, they would plan the signs, and the people holding the signs, with the intent of getting that one person they picked on the front page of the NYT or Washington Post (this was pre WWW). And they often got what they wanted. I learned not to disregard the importance of planning your photo opp at political events. If I thought it would get me my civil rights any faster, I’d wear a tutu to these events myself. And if I thought it would help, I’d wear a suit. My goal is to win my civil rights, and if it takes putting my assless chaps in the drawer for a while, so be it. (I actually don’t have any chaps, I suspect they’re too expensive, but I would shelve them in public if it helped the cause.)

  24. Oh how funny, I didn’t even remember that being controversial.

  25. nicho says:

    Meanwhile, Catholic universities threaten to punish safe sex.

    Catholic universities across the United States say they would tell student groups distributing condoms on campus to stop and would potentially threaten disciplinary action, just as Boston ­College did earlier this month.

    At BC, officials sent a letter to a student group that organized ­condom pickup spots on campus, citing the university’s mission as a Catholic institution and demanding that they cease or face possible discipline. The letter provoked ­angry reaction from some students and the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it might pursue legal action.

    Officials at Catholic colleges and universities — including the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, the University of Dayton, Providence College, and the Catholic University of America —
    said that their policies similarly do not allow students to distribute condoms on campus and that students who do so could face disciplinary ­action.

    “One of the teachings of our faith is that contraception is morally unacceptable,” said ­Victor Nakas, a spokesman for Catholic University. “Since condoms are a form of contraception, we do not permit their
    distribution on campus.”

    So, that kind of blows their cover as “pro life.” They prefer people die just to prop up some outworn dogma. It’s why I no longer donate money to my Catholic alma mater — or have anything to do with it.

  26. Indigo says:

    “A kiss is just a kiss . . .” but some kisses are more politically loaded than others. That a same sex kiss is news is, hopefully, soon to be a remembrance of the quaint superstitions of yesteryear.

  27. PeteWa says:

    Joss Whedon May 9, 2000 on the developing Willow – Tara relationship:
    “You’re walking a very fine line there. The network obviously has issues. They don’t want any kissing —
    that’s one thing that they’ve stipulated — and they’re a little nervous about it.”Tara and Willow wouldn’t have their first kiss until nearly a year later, in February of 2001.

  28. nicho says:

    Now if only anybody read Time Magazine any more…..

  29. nicho says:

    You laugh, but I remember (not that long ago) when gay people were scolded for showing affection in public — like wearing the mesh body suit — because it might turn off some straight people — and God knows we can’t do that.

  30. mwdavis says:

    I’d dress appropriately to kiss either one of them. (Oh, who am I kidding? I do just about anything to kiss just about any guy. I do have standards. They’re just pretty low.) Anyway . . .
    thanks, btw, for getting Scotusblog to clean up their act. You do good work.

  31. I remember the ewwws too, though I’m pretty sure the eews are still there, at the theaters

  32. Actually, unshaved is considered hot and hip of late. :) But actually, you’d better believe they posed for that shot and dressed appropriate :)

  33. mwdavis says:

    Good thing nobody’s wearing a mesh bodysuit on those Time covers. Altho the dudes should have shaved . . . after all they’re representing . . .

    :-) Just for fun.

  34. randy says:

    Thanks for the recap, John! I remember a time when two men kissing on the silver screen would elicit a whole bunch of “eeewwwws” from the audience. The straight men, especially, had to show everyone how much it grossed them out to see two fags kissing.

    Heck, I remember when two guys holding hands would garner all sorts of strange looks, giggles, and obnoxious remarks, even from supposedly liberal friends.

    Thank god those days are over! IT’s all just a matter of getting used to it. I’ll admit when I was young I thought it odd and unnatural to seeing an interracial couple. But when a friend of mine was dating a black woman, I quickly got over it. The more we see gays kissing, the more we get used to it, and the more it’s no big deal.

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