LOS ANGELES (AP) — Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair joke that they're getting married New Year's Day in front of 80 million of their closest friends, and the men say they aren't that concerned that a few thousand others may boycott the first gay marriage at the 125-year-old Rose Parade.
The pair, together for 12 years, plan to tie the knot atop a giant wedding cake on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float when it stops at the Rose Parade's reviewing stand on Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of people line the 5 1/2-mile parade route through Pasadena and an estimated 80 million more are expected to watch on TV from around the world.
It's probably safe to assume that among those not watching will be Karen Grube of San Diego, who launched a "Boycott The 2014 Rose Parade" Facebook page after learning of the couple's intentions. As of Monday, it had about 4,000 likes.
Grube, who didn't immediately respond to an interview request, has said that while she has nothing against Loots or Leclair, their wedding is an insult to people in the 32 states where gay marriage is still illegal.
"Why would the Tournament of Roses promote something illegal like that? Pot smoking is legal in some states too, and some even claim it has medical benefits. What's next for the Rose Parade? A float touting the benefits of smoking pot?" said a statement on the "Boycott the 2014 Rose Parade" page.
Loots and Leclair say they have nothing personal against their critics either, adding they expected some backlash.
"As far as Karen is concerned, or any of those detractors is concerned, I actually personally feel that I'm grateful that they're willing to speak out," Leclair told The Associated Press on Monday, as his fiance spoke up in agreement. "It's only in hearing what others have to say that we are able to engage in a conversation, that we are able to find common ground."
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, quickly joined the conversation, issuing a statement saying children watching Wednesday's parade "will be exposed to the spectacle of men 'marrying' men with the attendant public hugging and kissing."
"We urge Americans to demand that their political leaders change the legal channel to make sure true marriage is protected and preserved," he said.
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses, which puts on the parade, said in a statement that it is proud to have the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's float, adding it clearly represents this year's parade theme, "Dreams Come True."
"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," the statement said.
Loots and Leclair, who say it was love at first sight when they met across a crowded dance floor 12 years ago, had planned to marry in 2014. But they said Monday that they had no idea it would be in front of the Rose Parade reviewing stand where the Rev. Alfreda Lanoix of the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ is to perform the ceremony. The couple and the pastor will be perched on a giant wedding-cake-shaped platform.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation chose Loots and Leclair, who own a small chain of hair salons, from among several couples who interviewed for the opportunity.