World champion boxer (and Philippine politician) Manny Pacquiao is probably used to having the red carpet rolled out for him wherever he goes across the globe.
But in Los Angeles, one set of doors has just slammed shut.
The Grove, an outdoor mall in the Fairfax district, issued a statement Tuesday banning Pacquiao from the premises less than 24 hours before his scheduled TV interview with Extra's Mario Lopez (the show films on site).
The reason? A controversial interview that Pacquiao gave to the National Conservative Examiner, in which he came out against gay marriage. He said, "God only expects man and woman to be together and to be legally married, only if they so are in love with each other."
Pacquiao went on to reference the Bible, saying, "It should not be of the same sex so as to adulterate the altar of matrimony, like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah of Old."
At first glance, there's nothing too remarkable about his comments; Pacquiao is just another person claiming that his Christian faith prohibits him from supporting gay marriage. But his opposition to same-sex marriage may not have generated as many headlines if the National Conservative Examiner reporter hadn't included a violent Bible verse from the Book of Leviticus and made it seem as if Pacquiao had quoted it:
Pacquiao's directive for Obama calls societies to fear God and not to promote sin, inclusive of same-sex marriage and cohabitation, notwithstanding what Leviticus 20:13 has been pointing all along: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
The next day, Ampong clarified in a second post that Pacquiao never said or even alluded to the Leviticus verse, but the genie had already been let out of the bottle.
Pacquiao responded to the firestorm by disavowing violence toward gay people and claiming that he hasn't even read the Book of Leviticus. In an interview with Filipino news outlet ABS-CBN, he said (translated from Tagalog):
I only gave out my opinion that same sex marriage is against the law of God.
I’m not against gay people… I have a relative who is also gay. We can’t help it if they were born that way. What I’m critical of are actions that violate the word of God.
I didn’t say that, that’s a lie… I didn’t know that quote from Leviticus because I haven’t read the Book of Leviticus yet.
In response to The Grove's stand, shoppers are weighing in on Twitter about Pacquiao's ban:
@TheGroveLA Talk of intolerance! If his sincere religious belief's that homosexuality's a misguided & ill-made choice, what's your problem?— Nicole Czarnecki (@Nickidewbear) May 16, 2012
Gay Marriage USA, a gay rights organization, started a petition on Change.org calling for Nike to drop their sponsorship of the boxer. However, the petition was closed Wednesday when the reporter who interviewed Pacquiao wrote the follow up post clarifying that Pacquiao never quoted Leviticus. Here's more, from Change.org:
The author (Granville Ampong) of the original article that created this Pacquiao uproar has now written a new article stating that the boxer never actually said that gays should be "put to death" - that is, the author's writing was woefully misleading! See the article below which reports on the mess that the original author caused:
What do you think? Is The Grove taking a courageous stand for gay marriage equality or did they take the interview out of context?
We've reached out to The Grove for their response, and will update this story once we get word.
UPDATE: Manny Pacquiao sought to clear his name further in an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday. He reiterated his disapproval of gay marriage because of his Roman Catholic beliefs, but also said that he supports the rights of his gay friends and relatives.
Pacquiao also said that he loves and supports gays and lesbians.