The annual Rose Bowl Parade, held on January 1 in Pasadena, California, has around 700,000 participants and is broadcast around the world to an estimated 170 countries.
In the past, a number of couples have been allowed to marry on one of the carefully vetted floats, but never a same-sex couple. So, when Danny Leclair, 45, and Aubrey Loots, 42, were accepted to marry atop a charity-sponsored float this year, the stage was set for conservative pearl clutching — and clutch those pearls they did.
Warned the American Family Association in a press release:
The 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, will feature the “wedding” of two men and will take place aboard a float sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Millions of television viewers will see two homosexual men take wedding vows on a float that will celebrate same-sex marriage.
Rather than risk exposing your children to the blatant promotion of a sinful lifestyle this Wednesday morning, we urge your family to simply skip watching the entire network televised parade altogether.
You get the general idea. The parade was apparently “marred” by gay men expressing their love and formalizing a twelve year partnership through marriage, something that is now lawful in California thanks to Proposition 8 being overturned in 2013. It’s about as controversial as saying the Earth is round, but let’s not be fooled: religious conservatives started this phony protest some weeks back, probably hoping to capitalize on this large-scale, public event.
Even so, despite the fact that the parade was broadcast around the world, from watching the TV coverage of the event you might not know there was a protest or that a same-sex marriage happened at all. That’s because it appears a number of TV stations chose not to show the wedding.
Indeed, a number of angry viewers took to social media accusing some of the TV stations of giving in to the Religious Right and purposely not airing the wedding — which, it’s worth remembering, was sponsored by an AIDS charity and so wasn’t a purely self-indulgent exercise, either.
NBC received perhaps the most ire for mentioning the AIDS float, commenting on the lovely flowers, and skipping the part about the homosexuals engaging in wedded bliss.
That said, a number of outlets did choose to recognize the event, with KTLA-TV Channel 5 news’ Micah Ohlman reportedly sending the couple congratulations as the float went by.
What is quite amusing is that, if conservative groups had spared even a moment to actually listen to the messaging behind the float, they’d find that the entire ethos is rather conservative. In fact, it’s apparently even drawn some criticism from some in the LGBT community, and for arguably a good reason.
As mentioned above, the float was sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. It’s message was simple: ”Love is the Best Protection.”
That’s simply inaccurate. Sorry, no matter how much we love someone, we still risk transmitting HIV/AIDS from having unprotected sex. Condoms and other preventative measures are the appropriate salve for this, as is regular testing and status awareness.
If we aren’t going to nitpick though, but I’d argue it’s a big nit to pick, the message is a bit more broad: the AIDS Healthcare Foundation seems to be suggesting that for a long time now we’ve been telling gay couples to practice sexual responsibility, all the while denying them the chance to marry and have their relationships formally recognized. In essence, it’s been all stick and no carrot.
That’s no longer the case in California and so this float celebrates that, while encouraging other states to recognize that same-sex marriage can be good for public health. We do know, for instance, that discrimination drives HIV rates up, so on face the reasoning isn’t too objectionable.
As Autostraddle deftly points out though, the float’s “Love is the Best Protection” borders dangerously close to conflating love and marriage as though they are synonymous and implying that the only way to have a legitimate and responsible loving sexual relationship is to marry. Problematic to say the least, and it seems to ignore the fact that not everyone — gay or straight — wants to be married. There are many relationships that don’t fit the monogamous marriage paradigm, and they shouldn’t be being devalued, even in what I’m prepared to guess is an unintentional slight, by HIV prevention campaigns when not discriminating is the entire point.
In case this comes off as mean-spirited though, I think Mr. Leclair and Mr. Loots should have the last word on this. After all, they had very good reasons for wanting to marry in this very public way and, I think, their celebratory message is much more inclusive.
“We hope to inspire others to believe that they are worthy of love — gay or straight. We see this as an opportunity to show the world that love is love no matter the form. We look forward to this being a continuation of the conversation of marriage equality while we witness state after state honoring same-sex marriages.”
Photo credit: Thinkstock.