Grove bans Pacquiao over misrepresented gay marriage comments

The Grove shopping center became the unlikely battleground in the debate over gay marriage after it banned boxer Manny Pacquiao from the mall in response to an interview he gave in Los Angeles.

The ban led to a day of dueling statements, denunciations and backtracking.

Some news organizations erroneously quoted the boxing champion as saying gay men should “be put to death.”

That prompted the management of the Grove to issue a terse statement Tuesday evening that Pacquiao was persona non grata at the L.A. shopping center despite a scheduled television interview with Extra, which regularly films at the popular outdoor mall next to the Original Farmer’s Market at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue.

“Based on news reports of statements made by Mr. Pacquiao, we have made it be known that he is not welcome at the Grove and will not be interviewed here now or in the future. The Grove is a gathering place for all Angelenos and not a place for intolerance,” the mall said.

The Grove had no further comment Wednesday. But a source inside the organization said Grove officials feared that allowing Pacquiao’s interview to go forward at the mall could have proved disruptive.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said Pacquiao was free to express his views and that the decision to have him interviewed elsewhere “was in everybody’s best interest.”

The controversy stemmed from an interview Pacquiao gave to the National Conservative Examiner. Pacquiao expressed his disagreement with President Barack Obama’s recent endorsement of gay marriage.

The article went on to say that “Pacquiao’s directive for Obama calls societies to fear God and not to promote sin, inclusive of same-sex marriage and cohabitation.”

Stoking further controversy, the story quotes Leviticus 20:13, saying: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

Pacquiao was not quoted in the story as making the biblical reference. But he was reported as doing so by some American news outlets.

On Wednesday, Pacquiao went on the offensive. He said that he had nothing against gay people and that hateful comments attributed to him are untrue.

“What I said is a reporter asked me about gay marriage.... I am against gay marriage, but I’m not condemning gays,” the boxer said in an interview with The Times. “I have family — a cousin — who’s gay, and friends too. I’m just against gay marriage. I don’t even want to talk about the issue, but I was asked about it, so I gave my opinion.”

The writer of the original story also backed up Pacquiao’s account. “I sincerely apologize for the confusion my column has caused. I certainly do not represent Pacquiao nor his team,” the author wrote.

Some shoppers and workers at The Grove said they were surprised that Pacquiao was barred from the mall.

Grant Pearson, 23, of Indianapolis, who is visiting relatives in L.A., said he didn’t feel it was right for The Grove “to make that decision of who can or cannot be here.”

“I feel that if he would have come here to the Grove and said it out loud, where a lot of people hear him, that may be different,” Pearson said. “But he said it outside the Grove. I don’t even know where. That’s his freedom of speech, and he should not be banned for something like that.”

Some activists, however, could see the Grove’s perspective. “Hey, this guy has a right to his opinion. But he doesn’t have a right to appear at the Grove,” said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. “Given that The Grove thought he was calling for our death, I admire that The Grove leadership refused to support that in any way.”

As it turned out, “Extra’s” Mario Lopez interviewed Pacquiao at an alternate location: one of Pacquiao’s homes in L.A.

“To the gay community, I apologize,” Pacquiao said on the show, according to an “Extra” news release. “I’m against same-sex marriage, but I’m not condemning you. My favorite verse is ‘Love one another as you love yourself. Love your neighbor.’ So I love everybody!”

Los Angeles Times staff writers Bettina Boxall and Rosanna Xia contributed to this report.