Winning couple last year in ‘Today’ show’s annual wedding contest (Courtesy: ‘Today’ show)

Amid pressure from homosexual-rights activists, NBC’s “Today” show is opening its annual wedding contest to same-sex couples.

The old rules specified each couple must consist of a male and a female, but gender references have been dropped, according to NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust.

The aim of the event, now in its sixth year, is to have the winning couple get legally married on the show.

“Today” is “not taking a stand for or against same-sex marriage,” Gollust said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We’re just clarifying the rules based on new developments in the law. Anyone who can legally get married should be able to participate.”

However, Inquirer columnist Gail Shister points out that the weddings of previous winners took place in New York or, last year, in Anguilla.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in either place, but this year the ceremony will be held in the couple’s hometown.

Therefore, two men or two women from Massachusetts — where same-sex marriage was legalized last year — would qualify.

Shister said Today changed its policy this month due to “increased pressure from gay advocacy groups.”

A leading homosexual-activist group, GLAAD, said NBC’s decision is an affirmation of the “core American values” of fairness, inclusion and equal opportunity.

“By accepting eligible same-sex couples into one of its flagship programs, NBC — like the more than 500 newspapers across America that now accept gay and lesbian wedding announcements — is reflecting the reality of the world around us,” said GLAAD director of media programs and communications Glennda Testone.

This year’s wedding is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 16. Entries for “Today throws a hometown wedding,” which can be found on the show’s website, must be turned in by Tuesday.

Last year, NBC received nearly 2,500 entries. The winning couple was Buddy Butler and Nikki Hensley of Kentucky, who had every detail of their wedding determined by viewers’ weekly votes on the Internet.

Gollust denies that Today’s wedding event is a ratings stunt, even though last year’s ceremony ran during sweeps, reported Shister.

“It’s become an annual tradition that is both informative and entertaining,” Gollust said.

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