LOS ANGELES (MCT) – Danny Leclair snapped a photo of two toy grooms holding hands. He 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 Rose Parade in Pasadena.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation's float, "Living the Dream: Love Is the Best Protection," was created to celebrate 2013 victories 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 legalizing same-sex marriage because it encourages 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 used 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 celebration.
"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, "Boycott the 2014 Rose Parade," has been created in response to the planned marriage, and had more than 1,600 likes as of Sunday. One 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," the statement says. "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 gay men and women realized. He said Leclair and Loots were chosen from 15 other couples to wed on the float.
Leclair, 45, and Loots, 42, met more than 10 years ago, shortly after Leclair returned from a trip to South Africa. Loots is a South African native, and when the two met, Leclair recognized his accent and they hit it off.
"It was love at first sight," Leclair said. The couple now run three salons 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."
Staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this story.