Husbands-to-be Danny Leclair (l.) and Aubrey Loots in the office of one of their hair salons. They say they could never have imagined getting married on a float in the Tournament of Roses parade, but hope spectators will see how their relationship is no different than other people's.
Danny LeClair and Aubrey Loots have always done things with panache, since the first time they met on a dance floor fogged up with dry ice.
"I couldn't see my hand in front of my face," Leclair, 45, recalled. Loots laughed: "By the time the smoke parted, we were facing each other."
When the opportunity came to recognize their 12-year-relationship in front of millions of people, the two naturally went for it. On New Year's Day, Leclair and Loots will get married atop a 15-foot-high, cake-shaped float in the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade.
A live gay wedding is a departure for the Pasadena parade, which is best known for ornate floats, the blare of marching bands and the teenage Rose Queen and her Royal Court. But Larry Wilson, whose grandfather and uncle were presidents of the Tournament of Roses, said it demonstrates how mainstream gay marriage has become.
"I think it’s a great sign about the new open-mindedness in a classically middle-American institution," said Wilson, a columnist and opinion page editor for the Pasadena Star-News.
Leclair and Loots, who own three LA hair salons together, had planned to wed after the Supreme Court in June allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California. But they sped up their plans once they realized the vast platform the Rose parade presents.
"I'm hoping the more (the public sees) this happening, they won't see two men up there," said Loots, a 42-year-old South African native. "It's two people in love."
Leclair, who used to watch the parade growing up in Ottawa, Canada, credited organizers with keeping up with society's evolving views of what a family is. "We are just another part of that fabric," he said.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the L.A.-based advocacy and treatment organization, is sponsoring the float. President Michael Weinstein said Leclair and Loots' committed, long-term relationship exemplifies the float's theme: "Love Is The Best Protection."
Weinstein said the legalization of same-sex marriage will go a long way toward reducing infection rates among gay men, who have been sent mixed messages.
"On the one hand, we've been telling them to protect themselves and be safer," Weinstein said. "Then on the other hand, we've been telling them their relationships are not legitimate."
Weinstein said that the group's third-ever parade entry cost around $150,000 - a small price, he maintained, to pay for the world stage offered by the Rose parade. In 2013, the parade drew about 700,000 spectators and was broadcast globally to more than 80 million people.
Parade organizers did not provide an interview, but offered the following statement:
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is pleased to have AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) participate with a float entry in the 125th Rose Parade. It is the organization’s third entry in three years tied to their mission of delivering medical services and advocacy in fighting AIDS worldwide. 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.
There have been at least two other weddings performed during the Rose parade, including one in the 2013 edition.
At last check, the marriage of Leclair and Loots appeared to be the only one on the parade schedule.
Joining them on the float will be another long-time couple, Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer, activists who married the last time same-sex marriage was legal for a window of several months in 2008.
Leclair and Loots are so excited they've set up a Facebook page for their upcoming nuptials, for which they only have to buy suits. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is doubling as wedding planner, and taking care of everything else.
This story has been updated.