atwt, Van Hansis, Jake SilbermannVan Hansis/Jake Silbermann luke noah JPI
Credit: John Paschal/JPI

It was one step forward, two steps back — until fans made their voices heard.

Once upon a time, in a world far, far away, two young men named Luke and Noah met and fell madly in love. They became one of As the World Turns’ most popular couples — and the first gay supercouple in daytime. On top of that, their first kiss was the first time anyone had seen two men lock lips on a soap. It wasn’t the first same-sex kiss in daytime — that honor went to All My Children’s Bianca and Lena — but still, it was a huge milestone.

And yet we aren’t here remembering Nuke’s first kiss, or even their second. No, it was their third kiss on April 23, 2008, that made waves not just in the soap world but in practically the whole world.

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When Luke Snyder came out in 2005, it didn’t take long for both the town of Oakdale and viewers themselves to fall in love with him. But as viewers came to adore him, they began asking for him to find a romantic interest of his own.

“Why, sure,” CBS and Procter & Gamble thought, “that would be just dandy. Let’s introduce this handsome young man named Noah, and see what happens. A little diversity never hurt anyone.”

What happened was pure chemistry. Luke and Noah became friends, then something more. They locked lips once… twice… and mission accomplished! A little diversity attained! Time to move on.

The two young men fell in love, became a couple and were then shuffled to the back burner. Sure, they had their adventures here and there, but Luke and Noah’s relationship amounted to little more than longing looks and a general on-screen fondness. It was absurdly chaste in a genre not known for its reserve. And on top of that, it just wasn’t realistic.

“So what?” some of you may ask. “Soap operas aren’t exactly known for their realism.”

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The thing is, for all the over-the-top tropes, soaps have always served as an exaggerated mirror of the real world and our real lives. They present us with the gamut of human emotion, good and bad, writ large on our screens. Passions are enflamed and loves burn bright and fierce before burning out. Anger and resentment explodes into hatred and lifelong enmity. Distrust simmers below the surface of conversations until it boils over.

So to avoid a kiss in daytime is ridiculous enough in time-tested romances and even more so in those wild first months of a blossoming love.

As time went on, the ban became even more obvious and egregious. There was the infamous “Mistletoegate,” wherein viewers saw Luke and Noah lean in together for a kiss under the mistletoe, only for the camera to pan away at the last second. Then there was the very special Valentine’s Day episode. It was beautiful. Every couple shared a kiss on screen. Every couple but Luke and Noah. They warmly embraced.

The decision, presumably made to have it both ways and claim diversity while avoiding angering viewers with too much, ended up angering fans of the hugely popular couple. Devoted Nukers churned out letter-writing campaigns, Hershey Kiss campaigns and protests.

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And as time went on, the mainstream media caught wind of the story and began reporting on it. The Boston Globe, Associated Press, CNN — they all took note of the ban and P&G’s increasingly hollow insistence that there was no ban.

Neither side, it seemed, was willing to budge.

And then, suddenly, seven months after their last kiss, seven months into Nuke’s relationship, P&G finally blinked. On April 23, 2008, Luke and Noah shared their third kiss. Actually, kisses.

Was the drought finally over? It seemed so. Slowly but surely, the two were allowed to show intimacy and passion on screen like any other couple. Four months later, in August of 2008, a full year after Nuke shared their first kiss, every one of their scenes ended with them locking lips.

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Diversity achieved? It was progress, at least. The struggle over being allowed to kiss certainly made room for couples like Days of Our Lives’ Will and Sonny and General Hospital’s Lucas and Brad. And it can’t have lessened the opportunities for The Young and the Restless’ Mariah and Tessa to demonstrate their attraction to one another. And that’s pretty amazing.

While you’re here reflecting on bygone days, why not scroll through the below photo album, which revisits highlights of As the World Turns’ storied run.

Video: YouTube/As the World Turns