Danny Leclair, 45, and Aubrey Loots, 42, were the first gay couple to be married during the Rose Bowl Parade. The annual event took place January 1, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif., and includes more than 700,000 people along the parade route and an estimated 60 million worldwide viewers (since it's broadcast in 170 countries). They were the grooms atop a cake-shaped float sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation with its theme of "Love is the Best Protection."
"We knew that we would like to get married in 2014, but we were not planning anything specifically," Leclair explains. "I was supporting a friend who had a booth at a same-sex wedding expo [this fall]. I was overwhelmed by the displays; it was clear to me that the time had come. I don't think I was emotionally prepared for that until I arrived. While there, I suddenly faced an enthusiastic young lady who asked, 'Do you want to get married on a Rose Bowl Float?' I was struck by the image of it, so I stopped to learn more. As I wrapped my brain around the notion of it, I got an overwhelming sensation that this was a natural extension of our relationship."
The couple both immigrated to the United States in 1993--Leclair from Canada, Loots from South Africa--landing in Los Angeles. Together, they own and run Studio DNA Salons and Hair Art & Science Academy. Loots is a Wella Top Artist, and Leclair, whose mother was also a hairstylist, is a business management consultant. "I grew up in salons," he explains. "We think that we were predestined--either that or Freud would have a field day with us."
They originally met on a dance floor April 12, 2002 ("just as the dry ice fog cleared," they explain) and had their first official date at Border Grill followed by a long walk on the Santa Monica State Beach during which they had an "amazing philosophical conversation" about the existence of right and wrong.
"That clinched the deal," Leclair says. Within five months, Leclair proposed to Loots while on a business trip in New York City. While they ate at Madiba, a South African restaurant in Brooklyn that is fashioned after a traditional Shabine, with glass bottle chandeliers and corrugated metal siding, he noticed that the back of the menu had Marianne Williamson's quote that was featured in Nelson Mandela's inauguration speech. "The quote calls to mankind to realize their full potential; it doesn't serve God to play small."
When the dessert hit the table, Leclair started reading him the quote. "Aubrey looked at me perplexed by this spontaneous reading. 'That is how you make me feel and it is what I am committed to being for you,' I told him. 'I want to be sure that your life is elevated for having me in it. And I want to be at work ensuring your greatness for the rest of our lives.' I placed a watch in front of him. 'I know you love watches, so I got this in lieu of a ring. Will you marry me?'" Loots said yes. Since then, the couple have exchanged platinum Tiffany Infinity Rings.
When asked why they decided to make such a public display of their commitment, Leclair explains: "Aubrey and I have always stood for the greatness of others: It is the mission of our company, it is the intention of our community work, and it is the framework for our relationship. 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."