(Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
Multiple groups and individuals have boycotted the 125th annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on New Year's Day because two men were scheduled to be married aboard the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float.
The Sacramento-based group SaveCalifornia asked all those who oppose same-sex marriage and believe that marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman, to boycott the parade in a variety of ways, including not attending the parade and refusing to watch its live broadcast on television. The group also encouraged people to contact the parade's organizers and sponsors to voice concern over the public same-sex wedding to take place as being wholly inappropriate given how divisive the issue has been.
Randy Thomasson, head of the pro-traditional marriage group, told CBS that his group was protesting the public gay marriage ceremony because he believes it teaches children that "homosexual behavior is good and normal, when it's not biologically based, results in a high rate of HIV/AIDS and other STDs."
Thomasson added that "parents and grandparents" who support his organization were appalled when they learned of the public wedding, calling the event a "political stunt, forced upon children who are watching."
Another pro-traditional marriage group, the National Organization for Marriage, released a statement saying that it too supported a boycott of the parade, arguing that children watching the New Year's Day 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," NOM's president, Brian Brown, added in the statement.
Individuals also created their own protests to show their opposition to the event at the Rose Parade. San Diego resident Karen Grube launched the "Boycott The 2014 Rose Parade" Facebook page, which had accumulated over 6,000 followers by Tuesday.
"Gay 'marriage' is still illegal in over 30 states. 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 - with people actually smoking pot as it crawls down the parade route? This is just ridiculous and need [sic] to be stopped immediately," Grube writes on the Facebook page.
The female protester added to Channel 10 News that she believes the live wedding is "an in-your-face political statement," adding that she doesn't think the public display is fair to those who voted against same-sex marriage in California.
It was announced earlier this month that Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair, two Los Angeles-based hair dressers, had won the lottery to take part in a gay marriage ceremony atop the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float. The theme of this year's float was "Living the Dream: Love Is the Best Protection," meant to celebrate the Supreme Court's June decision to allow same-sex marriage in California. The float's theme also sought to communicate that long-lasting, committed relationships between couples help to reduce the spread of HIV, regardless of what sex the couple are.
LecLair and Loots told the Associated Press this week that they are not deterred by those who are protesting their wedding on top of the giant cake-shaped float, saying they were always expecting some backlash for their public ceremony.
"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 AP. "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."
AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein told CBS that his foundation is simply celebrating the recent Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage in California. "First and foremost, it's the law of the land in California, based on the actions of the Supreme Court."
Weinstein added that his group is not sponsoring the wedding "to make a political statement, but to celebrate a historic movement forward."
Weinstein went on to say that he doesn't think same-sex marriage should be hidden from children, especially because several states have legalized same-sex nuptials this past year. "We're not going to be stopped by the haters and Number Two, there's no asterisk alongside these marriages," Weinstein said. "This is the world we live in today."
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that it is "pleased" with the participation of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in this year's 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."
The annual Tournament of Roses Parade takes place in Pasadena, Calif. every New Year's Day and is attended by hundreds of thousands of people, as well as viewed by an estimated 68 million viewers globally who watch a live broadcast of the event. The parade's theme this year was "Dreams Come True," and the event was sponsored by big company names such as Coca-Cola, Honda, Taco Bell and American Airlines, among others.