By Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES, Dec 31 (Reuters) - A gay Los Angeles couple plans to exchange wedding vows on a flower-covered float trundling through Pasadena during the nationally televised Tournament of Roses Parade on Wednesday, capping a momentous year for same-sex marriage in the United States.
The planned nuptials of Danny Leclair, 45, and Aubrey Loots, 42, who have been together for 12 years and own a chain of hair salons, will mark the first same-sex marriage on a Rose Parade float in the 125-year history of the annual event, organizers say.
But it won't be the only wedding ever to have been performed on one of the Rose Parade's flower petal-bedecked floats on national television.
Wednesday's planned ceremony was preceded by two heterosexual couples tying the knot during separate processions in 1989 and last year.
Leclair and Loots plan to make it official aboard a float shaped like a wedding cake coated in white coconut chips, accented with red kidney beans and festooned with 12,000 roses and other floral decorations, said Ged Kenslea, a spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The foundation is sponsoring the float to celebrate same-sex marriage and the role it can play in helping to reduce new HIV infections among gay men, he said.
Joining the couple for the parade will be a lesbian minister performing the ceremony and a lesbian couple, Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer, who have been together 42 years and were legally married in California in 2008, Kenslea said.
He said the group planned to time the ceremony to be conducted at about 9:45 a.m. local time during the 15-second window during which that float is expected to pass before television cameras during the live parade broadcast.
Loots, who is originally from South Africa, and LeClair, a native of Canada, met at a Los Angeles nightclub and originally had planned for a relatively low-key wedding until the opportunity to exchange vows in the Rose Parade surfaced.
"For me, I was moved by the stand that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation was taking," Leclair told Reuters on Monday at a staging area where finishing touches were being added to the float in a large warehouse in Irwindale, east of Los Angeles.
Loots said he had been traveling when he got a message from his partner asking if he would want to get married on a Rose Parade float.
"I said, 'You're crazy! Of course, let's celebrate our love in front of the world,'" he recounted, adding that the couple were also motivated by the chance to offer hope to same-sex couples who in most states are still denied marriage rights.
"Being on top of this cake floating down the road is truly for the men and women in the world that don't have these opportunities," he said.
Wednesday's event comes at a time of increasing momentum for the cause of gay marriage in the courts, at the ballot box and in statehouses across the United States.
As of this month, same-sex matrimony has been legally recognized in 18 states and the District of Columbia, with the tally more than doubling during the past year, due in most cases to litigation over the issue.
The trend has gained steam since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that married same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits, striking down a key part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. (Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Eric Walsh)