Last Summer, Louis Marinelli was the driving force behind the National Organization for Marriage’s bus tour around parts of the country to “protect marriage” from gays and lesbians. It was that bus tour, according to an interview with Good As You blogger Jeremy Hooper, that changed Marinelli’s opinion about marriage equality.
Marinelli is now a full-fledged supporter of marriage equality. He writes at his blog:
Ironically, one of the last tour stops added to the itinerary was Atlanta and I bring this site up because it was in Atlanta that I can remember that I questioned what I was doing for the first time. The NOM showing in the heart of the Bible-belt was dismal and the hundreds of counter-protesters who showed up were nothing short of inspiring.
Even though I had been confronted by the counter-protesters throughout the marriage tour, the lesbian and gay people whom I made a profession out of opposing became real people for me almost instantly. For the first time I had empathy for them and remember asking myself what I was doing.
Marinelli’s story of conversion is eye-opening, and shows just how even those most virulently opposed to marriage equality can have their minds changed when gay and lesbian people come out and simply show themselves to be the real human beings that they are. The counter-protestors Marinelli met didn’t fit what he had been told by “experts” like the discredited psychologist Paul Cameron (whose bogus research Marinelli had been tweeting to the world).
Marinelli said the real turning point came when he took back over the NOM Facebook page and “soon realized that there I was surrounded by hateful people.”
Those “hateful people” reflected Marinelli’s actions right back to him. He had tweeted about how gays and lesbians are an “abomination” and “deviant.” He tweeted that marriage equality would be harmful to society and compared same-sex marriage to the union of a sterile brother and sister. He also called homosexuality immoral—but now apologizes for all that, as well as his attempt to make others conform to his idea of “morality.”
I consider myself agnostic and while homosexual acts may very well be “immoral” in the eyes of Christian morality, I can no longer stand by any comments I’ve made in the past about the immorality of homosexuality. There are a variety of different sets and sources of morals and no one has the right to impose their set on the rest of society.
While this is huge news—a leader of one of the biggest anti-gay groups going in this country jumping ship like this—Marinelli still believes that “homosexuality is wrong.”
My transition from an opponent of same-sex marriage to a supporter does not mean I suddenly think homosexuality is a good thing. I personally disagree with it. The same way I disagree with many other things other people do with their lives. That doesn’t give me or anyone else the right to prevent homosexuals from being homosexuals or to take away their constitutionally protected civil rights as American citizens.
And while some may think he needs to be fully converted, I believe his testimony is stronger because he still believes homosexuality to be wrong. What Marinelli’s revelation shows is that even those who believe homosexuality is “immoral” or “against God” or whatever religious belief they may base their opposition on—it doesn’t have to prevent them from supporting civil rights for others. I may think, for example, that it’s immoral for murderers to be allowed to marry while in prison, but I don’t have the right to prevent it.
Marinelli’s work with NOM, he feels, might be at least partly redeemable. As he tells Hooper, NOM has done good work promoting the value of marriage overall, and could still play that role without demeaning marriage equality. “We as a culture and a people have a bad record on marriage as a whole, particularly when it comes to divorce. This is something we need to work on and I think NOM could play a critical role in doing this.”
NOM doesn’t see it that way, unfortunately, and has launched a new Facebook page and revamped their Web site in an effort at damage control.
Marinelli’s turnabout, however, provides a shred of hope that even the most hardened, virulently anti-gay opponent can be converted from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh simply by building relationships with the very people they had considered “the enemy.”