What promises to be the highlight of tonight's Grammy Awards broadcast: a mass wedding of 34 couples, gay and straight, young and old, officiated by Queen Latifah, during Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's performance of their Grammy-nominated marriage equality anthem, "Same Love."
Lewis said the weddings "will be in our minds the ultimate statement of equality, that all the couples are entitled to the same exact thing," The New York Times reports. The show's producers aare expecting the ceremonies to be "the biggest show-stopper of the night," the Times notes.
Mary Lambert, the featured vocalist on the song, will join in the performance, as will superstar Madonna, according to the Times.
Grammys producer Paul Ehrlich had heard from his lesbian daughter that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's concerts have sometimes included onstage proposals, and the idea of taking this further, with a mass wedding, during a meeting with the artists, the Times reports. The couples were recruited through a casting agency and were initially told only that their ceremonies would be on live television, then recently told they would be on the Grammys. They were also asked to sign confidentiality agreements. Ryan Lewis's sister Laura and her boyfriend, Alex, will be among the marrying couples, who will be placed in aisles in front of the stage at Los Angeles's Staples Center.
Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that presents the Grammys, acknowledged that some viewers might see the weddings as exploitive, and that the academy might hear from some opponents of marriage equality.
"I expect that people with all kinds of opinions might voice them, and that's healthy," he told the Times, adding, "We don't need to stoop to the level of trying to find gimmicks and sensationalistic approaches to what we do."
The Grammys will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Eastern time on CBS.