Love Won’t Prevent HIV, ASOs Tell Rose Bowl Couple
Gay couple Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair made history on January 1 when they held the first gay wedding ever officiated on a Rose Parade float. And while conservatives were predictably disgusted, many LGBT activists also found fault in the float’s message that "Love is the Best Protection" from HIV/AIDS. But the newlyweds were just not having it.
In an open letter posted to Facebook, Leclair recounted how he proposed to his South African partner at Brooklyn’s Madiba restaurant 11 years ago, and were finally able to make it legal. He said that although he was prepared for the backlash from conservatives, he never thought it would come from his own community.
"We did not expect that some of our ’supporters’ would join the chorus of dissent," wrote Leclair. "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."
The Advocate’s beef was that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s theme that love was the best protection from HIV was "scientifically unlikely." Critics countered with a 2008 Emory study, which suggests that bans on same-sex marriage can lead to a rise in HIV infection rates.
"Intolerance is deadly," said Hugo Mialon, an assistant professor of economics, regarding that study. "Bans on gay marriage codify intolerance, causing more gay people to shift to underground sexual behaviors that carry more risk."
Some argued that touting marriage as a way to protect oneself from HIV appealed to heteronormative standards of safe sex, and others argued that marriage equality has eclipsed the fight against HIV among LGBT priorities.
Ultimately, both sides have a point, as the AIDS Foundation of Chicago wrote in a press release supporting Illinois’ 2013 same-sex marriage bill that, "Stigma and homophobia fuel the AIDS epidemic. 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."