Bay Times Exclusive
On New Year’s Day, Danny Leclair and Aubrey Loots became real-life wedding cake toppers by marrying atop a cake-shaped float in the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade. The Los Angeles-based couple decided to do this after Danny e-mailed a photo of himself to long-time partner Aubrey with the questions, “Will you marry me legally? Do you want to get married on a Rose Parade float?” Clearly Aubrey’s answer was, “I do!”
The Bay Times recently interviewed the couple, who are now well on their way to living happily ever after. We were delighted by their conversational back and forth, with each helping to clarify and expand upon the thoughts of the other. If you’re not in the Valentine’s Day mood yet, we hope you will be after learning more about this devoted, loving couple.
Bay Times: When, where and how did the two of you first meet each other?
Danny: The story actually begins September 11, 2001. I was so impacted by those tragic
events that I felt compelled to do something to improve the world. I joined the African AIDS Trek and raised over $10,000 for African AIDS Education and Relief in order to spend three weeks in South Africa hiking through the Cederberg Mountains.
Between meeting so many brave, optimistic and generous people from AIDS Service Organizations and hiking some of the most gorgeous terrain in the world, it was an intensely life affirming journey.
When I returned, I couldn’t sleep due to the jet lag. I contacted some friends and I went out dancing at a club. Meanwhile, Aubrey (a South African who immigrated to the United States) was hosting his best friend, Craig, who was visiting from Johannesburg. They went to a birthday dinner. Aubrey convinced Craig to go out dancing. Near the end of the night, I was ready to leave the club. I spotted my friend across the dance floor, so I began to make my way toward him to tell him goodbye. As I weaved my way through the tightly packed dance floor, the club producer pumped dry ice onto the dance floor so thickly I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face. I was forced to stand in place until the smoke parted. When it did, gone was my friend and in his place was Aubrey.
Aubrey: I spotted (Danny) right away. I was with Craig and I began dancing towards Danny. We reached each other and danced for a while until he asked if I wanted to get some water from the bar. I said, “Yes.” When we got to the bar, he asked for my name. When I told him, he immediately asked if I was from South Africa. I was shocked. People think my accent is Australian or British. No one ever says, “South Africa.” I asked him how he knew and he told me that he was there no more than 36 hours prior. We haven’t been apart since.
BT: What inspired the Rose Bowl Parade marriage idea, and how were the two of you selected?
Aubrey: The idea of celebrating California’s momentous success in Marriage Equality by staging the first same-sex marriage in the Rose Bowl Parade was the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s idea. They have had floats in the parade for a few years (this being the third). Initially, Farmer’s Insurance was going to stage another wedding (last year was their first) and they decided last minute to change the theme and honor teachers instead. AHF was contacted by the parade committee, to whom they had already pitched the idea, and were told that they can now perform the wedding on their float.
Danny: At Frontier’s Magazine’s first annual same sex expo, AHF had a booth hoping to find a couple. I was there supporting a friend who took a booth to promote her marriage planning business. I was approached by one of their reps. After hearing what they were standing for in hosting the wedding, I found myself aligned and enthusiastic, so I filled out their questionnaire. I then found two grooms on top of a cake and I snapped a pic, sent it to my husband who was teaching in Kentucky and added the caption, “Will you marry me legally?” A few weeks later we were asked to come in and do an on camera interview. The following week, we were asked to be “the couple,” which, of course, we accepted.
BT: What was it like being in the parade, and at what point along the route did you exchange vows? Who was the
Danny: Several times during the route, Aubrey would grab my hand and say, “Take it in. Let’s be present.” I would then say, “How can you not be present? Look around.” It was awash with love and celebration. People were screaming like we were rock stars. Some sections practiced a call together so they could yell it in unison. People held up signs with our names or quotes like “Love is Love.” I got the impression that some people saw this image of us on top of the cake as groundbreaking, a life changing moment and became overwhelmed by it. A woman was screaming uncontrollably like we were (pop band) One Direction! When we acknowledged her, the woman next to her yelled out, “She has been waiting for this all day!” Then there were the families who had their children. They would hold up their hands or encourage them to yell, “Congratulations!” Certainly, we had some boos, cynical signs, turned backs and negative hand gestures along the way expressing dissent. It was few and far between. When we saw them, we acknowledged them directly and simply said, “We see you, we hear you and we love you.”
Aubrey: We exchanged our vows as we approached and turned from Orange Grove to Colorado Blvd. We wanted to have the kiss right on press row. It was a glorious moment because we could not only hear our commitment be solidified, but we could also hear the world change. It is no coincidence that the last six weeks have been the most active in marriage equality debates that this country has ever seen.
Danny: Our officiant was the gorgeous, vivacious and loving Reverend Alfreda Lanoix from Love@Work. Check her out www.alfredalanoix.com/.
BT: How did you celebrate your marriage? Did you go on a honeymoon or, if not yet, what plans do you have for one?
Danny: We celebrated later that evening at our home with about 50 of our nearest and dearest friends and family members. My mother and father just happened to be visiting over the holidays from Canada. It was fortuitous that this all happened so they could witness it. It was even more fortunate that they were able to cook for our reception dinner, as they are such amazing cooks.
Aubrey: We will be leaving for our honeymoon in a few weeks. We are going to Belize for a week of nothingness.
BT: What are your future plans for participating in the LGBT community of your local area, or nationally?
Danny: One of the things that this opportunity has taught both of us is that there is much to be done, not only in the conversation of marriage equality, but also in the national discourse. We (as a nation) have often exchanged our sense of love and community with shame and derision. So, no matter the subject, people would much rather condemn the expression of another human being than endeavor to understand them. We want to continue to espouse love
as the answer in all that we do with our businesses and in our communities.
Aubrey: More specifically, we have reached out to Marriage Freedom, HRC and GLAAD to lend our voice of support. We are willing to share our experience on our wedding day and the experience of our relationship as one of the many amazing stories that show that love is no different between my husband and I than it is for a “traditional marriage.” We look forward to providing whatever we can on the national front.
Danny: On the local front, we firmly believe in the work that Family Equality Council does on a regular basis advocating for families of same sex couples. The truth is that marriage equality is most impactful in the area of raising children. The protections it provides and the support the organization provides go a long way toward creating a much more loving and well-adjusted next generation.
Aubrey: We also believe that there are so many children who need homes in this country and so many same sex couples who have a lot of love to offer. We are beginning that journey and look forward to share that journey with everyone. We want the fabric of this country to include these families by showing us on television, in the media and welcoming us in all communities.