QUEER VOICES

Rose Parade Gay Wedding Ignites Controversy Over AIDS Message

01/03/2014 09:08 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gay couple Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair made history Wednesday, when the pair participated in the first gay wedding ever officiated on a Rose Parade float.

Perhaps predictably, the public ceremony conducted on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float during the 125th annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., was the target of complaints from conservative groups. However, the wedding also drew the ire of some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists who objected to the float's message that "Love is the Best Protection" from HIV and AIDS.

In an open letter posted to Facebook, Leclair noted that while he was "of course... prepared for the backlash" from conservatives, he did not anticipate criticism from within the LGBT community:

We did not expect that some of our “supporters” would join the chorus of dissent. We heard from gay men who felt it was too soon to ‘flaunt our weddings’ in public. Some felt that it was wildly inappropriate to assert that committed same-sex relationships could contribute to the reduction of HIV infections around the world. We heard from ‘friends’ of the LGBT community who thought two men kissing on a cake would set back the movement by enraging the Right Wing Conservative groups. Then there were the concerned citizens who felt that any wedding, gay or straight, should be reserved for less public affairs. The Rose Parade is no place for a wedding.

Whether it was appropriate to say love was the best protection against AIDS and HIV seemed particularly troubling to some in the gay community, with gay magazine The Advocate labeling the float's slogan "scientifically unlikely."

"Advocating marriage equality for LGBT communities throughout the United States and elsewhere is extremely important, but upholding marriage as a means to protect people from AIDS seems more like a nod to stereotypes of queer promiscuity that only matrimony is presumed to rein in," a blogger wrote on the queer-friendly site Autostraddle. "This brand of respectable queerness places the focus on appealing to heteronormative standards of safe sexuality and obscures real ways to keep queer people safe from STIs."

The relationship between HIV/AIDS prevention and gay marriage is a somewhat complicated one. Even as some advocates worry that the movement to eradicate AIDS has been "abandoned" in favor of the rapidly growing surge toward marriage equality, others argue that the two causes are inextricably intertwined.

Indeed, a 2008 survey conducted by Emory economists suggested that bans on same-sex marriage "can be tied to a rise in the rate of HIV infection."

Ultimately, both sides have a point, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago notes.

"Stigma and homophobia fuel the AIDS epidemic," the organization stated in a press release supporting Illinois’ 2013 same-sex marriage bill. "In the long run, legalized same sex marriage also figures to have an impact on the ongoing efforts to end the AIDS epidemic. It’s no panacea; same sex marriage stands to have little impact on some populations at risk for HIV, such as transgender youth or African-American women."

What do you think of the message? Let us know in the comments below.

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