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Next week’s New Year’s Day Rose Parade is set to feature a live same-sex wedding as well as a float from SeaWorld. Both are attracting criticism from groups opposed to gay marriage and animal cruelty, respectively. Conan Nolan reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.
A same-sex couple will exchange vows atop a giant wedding cake during next week’s Rose Parade, a first for the iconic Southern California event and the response to it has not been universally positive.
Danny Leclair, 45, and Aubrey Loots, 42, have been in a committed relationship for more than a decade. They decided that 2014 would be the year they tied the knot, since same-sex marriage is now legal in California.
“We want to start a family and we want our child to have two parents,” Leclair said.
But neither expected the ceremony to become quite so public.
“He told me how it happened and I said, 'You’re crazy,' and, 'Yes, let’s do it,'” Loots said with a laugh.
The couple – which owns Santa Monica-based D.N.A. Salon – won a lottery to formally wed on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, on top of a float dubbed "Love is the Best Protection" sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
"We believe that sanctified relationships, like gay marriage, which is legal in California and 16 other states, will really go a long way to help reduce the spread of HIV and other STDs," said Ged Kenslea, with AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
With the 2014 theme "Living the Dream," Rose Parade has had weddings before, but the response to Leclair and Loots’ wedding has not been universally positive.
A Facebook page set up by San Diego resident Karen Grube calls for a boycott of the parade and its sponsors.
“Gay marriage is still illegal in 30 states… Why would the Tournament of Roses promote something illegal like that? Pot smoking is leg in some states too… what’s next for the Rose Parade? A float touting the benefits of smoking pot? With people actually smoking pot as it crawls down the parade route?” Grube wrote.
Her Facebook page “Boycott the 2014 Rose Parade,” plastered across news reports nationwide, had 447 “likes” by 7 p.m. Friday.
It’s a sentiment the to-be-wed couple said they don’t understand.
"We are just getting married. We are having a wedding. We aren't gay marrying and having a same-sex wedding,” Leclair said. “We are two consenting adults who want to make a commitment."
But while they said their public marriage is not about politics, both Leclair and Loots said they hope to send a message to those living in places like Uganda and Russia, which have recently passed anti-gay legislation.
Lawmakers in Uganda have approved the death penalty as punishment for certain homosexual acts.
"That we give those people hope, where there is absolutely no hope at the present," Loots said.
Joining the couple on the float will be Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer, who have been together for 42 years and were legally married in California in 2008, AHF said in a news release.