Danny Leclair snapped a photo of two toy grooms holding hands. He then sent the photo via email to his longtime partner, Aubrey Loots, with a question:
"Do you want to get married on a Rose Parade float?"
Loots agreed, and on New Year’s Day the Los Angeles couple will become real-life wedding cake toppers when they say “I do” on a cake-shaped float in the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s float, “Living the Dream: Love Is the Best Protection,” was created to celebrate victories in 2013 for gay marriage advocates, including Supreme Court decisions upholding the repeal of California’s Proposition 8 and striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Foundation spokesman Ged Kenslea said the organization supports legally sanctioning same-sex marriage because it encourages more stable relationships among gay men as well as behavior that will prevent the spread of HIV.
“We believe that marriage saves lives,” he said.
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses has received complaints from people opposing the wedding. Some took to the organization’s Facebook page to voice their anger.
“I am a 79 year old Los Angeles native and have not missed a parade since I was about 4 years old. I have watched my LAST one due to your decision to allow this unbiblical, gay marriage to take place on one of your floats,” one man wrote.
Others expressed concern about the event not being suited for families that may tune in to watch the annual New Year’s Day celebration. The popular float parade is watched by people around the world.
“2 gay men in a ‘wedding’ ceremony is highly offensive to me and millions of Americans,” one wrote. “I can't think of many things LESS appropriate for families and especially children. It's completely the wrong venue for a stunt like this.”
A separate Facebook page has also been started called “Boycott the 2014 Rose Parade,” with more than 1,600 “likes” as of Sunday. A post reads: “Gay ‘marriage’ is still illegal in over 30 states. Why would the Tournament of Roses promote something illegal like that?”
In a statement released to the Los Angeles Times, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses said it is “pleased” to have the foundation participate in this year’s event.
“It is the organization’s third entry in three years tied to their mission of delivering medical services and advocacy in fighting AIDS worldwide,” says the statement.
“Like all of our sponsors and float designers, AHF continues to help make the Rose Parade a premier event through original and creative expressions that connect to parade themes — as this float does.”
Kenslea said he thinks the wedding is the perfect way to honor the parade's theme of “Dreams Come True,” by showing the dream of lesbians and gay men realized. He said that the couple was chosen from 15 others who wanted the chance to wed on the float.
Leclair, 45, and Loots, 42, met more than 10 years ago, shortly after Leclair had returned from a trip to South Africa. Loots is from South Africa, and when the two met, Leclair recognized his accent and the two hit it off.
“It was love at first sight,” Leclair said. The couple have been together since and now run three salons together in Los Angeles.
Leclair said he can’t wait to be “legally married to the person I’ve committed my life to and been with for the past 12 years.”
The wedding float will also include a lesbian couple, Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer, who have been together for 42 years and legally married for five.
The foundation’s float will be one of the last in the parade, and the wedding will take place about 9:30 a.m., Kenslea said.
“This is monumental,” Leclair said. “That image of a same-sex couple marrying on such a big scale just goes to show what strides the community has made.”
Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.
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