The story of Louis Marinelli is truly extraordinary.
There's a part of me that would very much like to present his story in a snarky frame that spoofs gay reparative therapy, "You too can walk away from homophobia."
But to mock this development might distract from the truly beautiful heart of the story. We laughed uproarious when the initiative that Marinelli himself organized, National Organization for Marriage's "Summer for Marriage" bus tour crashed spectacularly last summer. At every single stop, counter-protesters outnumber NOM supporters, in some places, nothing short of overwhelmingly so. Courage Campaign did a truly spectacular job organizing the pushback. You can see their string of victories here.
Outnumbering them is one thing. But changing hearts and minds of our opponents? Who could have imagined? The seeds of that victory were not immediately apparent. Louis wrote in his initial reversal:
"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."We see the simple wisdom of Harvey Milk at work here. He urged our community, all those decades ago, to "come out!" He believed the most powerful tool for fighting the Briggs ballot initiative that would have outlawed LGBT teacher in California was the simple act of being visible:
We aren't the monsters our opponents paint us to be. We don't want to show gay porn to anyone's children in the public schools, an absurd suggestion our opponent contend is real. We don't want to recruit them to be anything they don't want to be. We don't want to jail any men or women of the cloth. We just want our families respected, and to enjoy the same right, benefits and responsibilities as every other American citizen.
Marinelli is working in concert with Courage Campaign, and has a post up at their site. Reposted with permission from Adam Bink of Prop 8 Trial Tracker.
Louis Marinelli's words:
As many of you know, last summer I organized the 2010 “Summer for Marriage Tour” for the National Organization for Marriage. Over the course of thirty days, I traveled across the nation pushing an agenda that is at odds with our constitution and our American values.
As a conservative at heart, I deeply regret the work I did not only during the summer of 2010 but over the past five years as a whole to curtail the rights of gays and lesbians in this country. And I’m coming here to tell you about what led to my change in heart… and to ask for your help.
First, I am overwhelmed by the response I have received from the LGBT community and their straight allies. Over the past five years I have spent my time attacking, misrepresenting and offending these people and since my announcement they have been able to put all of that behind them and show me nothing but kindness and support. I am truly inspired by the messages I have received and continue to receive since I announced my support for civil marriage equality on April 8th.
There are many factors that led to my change of heart but without a doubt it is rooted in the fact that during the very summer tour that I organized, I was forced to see gays and lesbians upfront for who they really were. For the first time they became real people to me who had real lives and I understood the work I was doing was negatively affecting them in real ways.
That is exactly what needed to happen and I directly credit the work the Courage Campaign did in conjunction with all of you here at Prop8TrialTracker/NOMTourTracker for playing an instrumental role in my change of heart.
Arisha and Anthony approached me several times throughout the summer tour. I remember sitting on a bench in St. Louis, Missouri alone with Anthony for a few minutes. It was just the two of us talking off camera. It was then that I empathized with Anthony for the first time, although I did not tell him.
I understood for the first time that my work wasn’t affecting some faceless, nameless political targets but instead good people just like Anthony. Gays and lesbians just wanted to participate in all that is America.
This culminated in Atlanta which was our next stop on the tour. I questioned myself for the first time as I was standing before the hundreds of gays, lesbians and straight allies that came out that day to stand up for equality and civil rights and stand against injustice and ignorance.
I have firsthand experience knowing that anyone can change if they could just see how their anti-equality work is affecting real people. I would like to thank the people at the Prop 8 Trial Tracker/NOM Tour Tracker and the Courage Campaign for doing the legwork and putting in the time and effort to change my life for the better.
Now I want to return the favor by fighting for full marriage equality.
To show just how much I want to make up for what I did in the past, today Courage Campaign sent a guest e-mail from me to some of its members asking for $5 — one dollar for each of the five years I worked with NOM — so that they can make more change of heart “moments” happen with their work. I would be honored, and grateful, if you would chip in to help move more people like me. I am proof that the work you, and they, do with your support actually does change hearts and minds.
Living in Russia, I understand what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t respect everyone’s civil rights and that doesn’t respect its own constitution. America is better than that.
Now, thanks to Arisha, Anthony and the thousands of gays and lesbians who participated in the summer tour as counter-protesters — including many of you — I support marriage equality for all in this country. Equality is what America is about, it is what our constitution calls for and it is what I vow to help to achieve moving forward.
I am truly grateful for this and therefore I am asking for your help in supporting their work to change more hearts, one by one if necessary, as they did with mine.
Thank you for all the work you’ve done, and I’m honored to do it with you now… together.
An interesting follow-up story is now circulating, there's a post up at Towleroad and elsewhere. Mr. Marinelli seems to be really causing some trouble for NOM on his way out the door. He calls their base of support an "illusion." There is no grassroots movement to oppose this and the social media is all handled by a professional company creating an illusion of buzz. From a posting Marinelli made at his site yesterday:
I am sharing this with you because I want you to realize that NOM is a small group of devoutly religious Catholics supported by a couple of undisclosed sources. NOM is essentially made up of Brian Brown, its President, Maggie Gallagher, the CEO, a handful of other Board members (who are scattered across the country involved in other matters), a couple of advisors to Mr. Brown and a small and largely incompetent office staff.A cursory look at Opus Fidelis reveals a distinct possibility that it may be but a shell company. The site was made in 2007, coincidentally the same year NOM was formed. They use a protection service though to block anyone from finding out the site registrant as well. They are headquartered in Reston, Virginia, in an area where small business parks are common. The sort of place where a small company might rent a shared cubicle, or shared office space with others.
Their social media management isn’t operated by NOM – they’re not big enough for that nor do they understand social media! As Jeremy Hooper detailed, Opus Fidelis manages NOM’s social media and websites.
That is all that is standing between you and the freedom to marry. There is no grassroots opposition. While they have proven to be quite successful over the past couple years, I think it’s time to put NOM’s size into perspective. Are you going to let a handful of fringe Catholics (with whom many Catholics disagree on marriage) stand between you and the freedom to marry?‘
Hmmmmm can you say "astroturf?" It begs the question of why Maggie Gallagher and Brown are afforded such credibility to speak to legislatures, in New Hampshire, Maryland, Rhode Island and elsewhere. Perhaps when the state of Maine finally compels NOM to reveal who gave them the $1.9M they spent to defeat marriage equality in 2009, in accordance with their state campaign finance laws, we'll have a clearer picture of who they really are.
Update: Thanks to Ruthtopia for doing a little more legwork on Opus Fidelis, from the comments:
Googling the mailing address for Opus Fidelis (Latin for "faithful work" I think) comes up with Fidesco International, a Catholic volunteer organization.
The "headquarters" address comes up with the Reston Business Center, which offers "virtual office" services, including:
- Prime Business Address
- Mail and Package Receipt
- Business Support Center
- Lobby Greeter
- Client Dropoff / Pick-up Point
- Lobby Directory Listing
- Conference Room
- Day Time Office
- Mail Forwarding one time weekly
Musing85 provides a correction: "The Latin actually translates as "Work of the Faithful." "Opus" is in the nominative, and "fidelis" in the genitive."
Good to know!