the exhilarating adventure of changing your mind

April 12, 2011

The blogger Jeremy Hooper has posted one of the most fascinating documents I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, through all my reading related to the collision of gay rights activism and conservative Christian activism. A man changed his mind. Wow. It does happen, people. The man is named Louis Marinelli, and for a while he had a very close relationship with the organization NOM, which (in spite of its acronym) is not about the ravenous consumption of yummy food but instead is attempting to agitate and lobby against the institutionalization of same-sex marriage. Marinelli went from being an enthusiastic supporter to a repentant sinner asking for grace. Not to misrepresent things: the man is not a Christian. (More fascinating still, he is not exactly a supporter of the set of sexual choices often called “homosexuality.”) This is not a man who has switched camps. He just recognizes that there is a truth external to our biases and leanings and sometimes a day of reckoning comes when you have to adjust your point of view in accordance with that truth. We who profess faith should all have such a spiritual experience!

Hooper emailed him, asking: “On record, I’d ask you to go through the list of comments you have written/ Tweeted/ blogged/ Facebooked and repudiate any/all that you now see were objectionable.” Marinelli’s response is below. (Links are mine, and I have numbered the recantations for easy reference, and just for the sheer pleasure of doing so.) He writes:

1. I quoted from the research of Paul Cameron when I said that homosexuals have a shorter life-span. I must say that when I quoted this man I was not aware of his history and here and now do not wish to comment on the legitimacy or irrelevance of the man’s work as I am neither a psychologist nor does psychology interest me.

What I said, referring to the life-spans of homosexuals, I continue to believe in the following context: Any group of people that contract any viral disease more than the general public due to the nature of their lifestyle, logically, will have a life-expectancy lower than that of the general populace.

However, that kind of rhetoric, implying that gay men are unworthy of civil marriage due to any particular health issues surrounding their sexual activity was both inappropriate and offensive. It is for those reasons, that I retract this statement.

2. I once wrote or implied that all homosexuals are single, even if they had at some point or another, been legally married by the state. While in the eyes of the Catholic faith, these same-sex unions aren’t recognized as marriages insofar as holy matrimony is concerned, I retract this statement now that I have been able to see and distinguish and understand the differences between religious and civil marriage.

3. Any support or endorsement of what Peter LaBarbera does I retract. I have been reading via Twitter and his website what this guy has to say, and it is clear that he is just a hateful man and I would be embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with him.

Furthermore, the issues Peter takes on, even if they were true, are not in themselves valid reasons for denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage. I am aware how he was upset by my public support for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in December. His reasoning for such seemed to be something along the lines of “in order to protect marriage, you have to oppose everything homosexuals do”. If that were the case, Peter, how far should we go in restricting homosexuals’ lives?

4. As far as my comments about the hijacking of the civil rights movement, I would say that while the offenses the gay community endure from the public are similar, the issue as it pertains to the government are totally different. 

The gay community is not forced to attend different schools, drink from different water fountains, or give up their seats for heterosexuals on the bus. They are not, as black Americans are to this day, incarcerated at higher levels than heterosexuals and while I do not deny that there is violence directed towards gays and lesbians because of their sexual orientation, no one should be comparing that to the organized violence faced by the black community prior to the civil rights movement itself. 

That said, I agree that what the gay community are fighting for are their civil rights. So in that way, it is indeed a civil rights movement but not the civil rights movement. That is to say, a new civil rights movement, not an extension or continuation of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

5. Any comments I made that attacked homosexuals on a personal level, I retract. This includes calling them an abomination. I personally do not agree with homosexuality and without any shame will continue to uphold my belief that homosexuality itself presents a public health concern due to the sexual diseases that are associated with it and that spread rapidly as a result of it.

I think a lot of work needs to be done for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, to change the culture of promiscuity in our country and we would be doing ourselves a favor to focus our energies on that instead of singling out and laying the blame on one of the many guilty parties. 

However, until the day comes that homosexual sex does not continue to spread HIV at alarming rates as it does today, I must stand by my comments that, from a public health stance, homosexuality is a harmful to society.

 Having said that, the health issues facing promiscuous homosexual men is irrelevant to the issue of same-sex marriage. I was guilty of and apologize for this insensitive and inappropriate rhetoric.

6. On multiple occasions I have said something to the effect of “homosexuality is wrong”. And in my opinion it is. 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.

7. As a supporter of civil marriage equality, any statements I’ve made in the past about not recognizing homosexual relationships for one reason or another, of course it goes without saying that I no longer stand by these comments and I apologize for the insensitivity. Same-sex couples, whether they are married, in civil unions or domestic partnerships, ought to be recognized for what they are.

8. 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.

9. Once I wrote that homosexuals are deceitful people who care only about themselves or something to that effect. Honestly, aren’t we all? It was wrong for me to exclude everyone else from that description. We all lie and when it comes down to it, we will do what is best for ourselves. So throwing in a little levity, I stand by the comment but want to apologize for limiting its scope to the gay community.

10. My 3P’s video from YouTube was wrong. It may be true that at some point in time that the legalization of prostitution, the lowering of the age of consent and the legalization of polygamy may have been a part of the platform endorsed by homosexual activists in Chicago in the 1970s. However, there is no indication that any mainstream LGBT activist groups or organizations today advocate for these issues.

What’s further, from a technical standpoint alone the video was inaccurate. The platform called for the reduction of the age of consent, not the legalization of pedophilia, which is the sexual interest in pre-pubescent children. The reduction of the age of consent was about that and instead, to my knowledge, involved a reduction that would involve post-pubescent teenagers, which would not be pedophilia. 

I think this kind of rhetoric is harmful to our homosexual neighbors and I retract the statements. The entire YouTube account I used for this video, as well as others, was deleted sometime in late January, when I began to accept the fact that what I was doing was wrong.

11. When it comes to the issue of my statements about homosexuality being a mental disorder, I have one thing to say. And that is that I apologize for the insensitivity and accept the fact that this has nothing to do with civil marriage. So what if it’s a mental disorder? It wouldn’t and shouldn’t disqualify gay men and women from civil marriage.

While it may seem surreal to celebrate a man who says, “I’m not ruling out the possibility that homosexuality is a mental disorder, but that shouldn’t affect access to civil marriage,” these kinds of judgments are exactly what we need more of. To put the shoe on the other foot: every LGBTQ person who says, “I’m not ruling out the possibility that religious people are mass-delusional idol-worshipers with a weak hold on rationality – but that shouldn’t prevent me from engaging with them respectfully in public debate,” should likewise be celebrated. What we have a lot of instead is, “Not only are you, my opponent, wrong, but you are wrong in such a total and utterly certain way that I am released from any obligation to courtesy and good listening that I would ordinarily consider binding.”

Hooper went on to ask Marinelli, “I wonder what has led to your change of heart. Was it… seeing the actual human beings hurt by NOM’s work?” His response, in part, follows. I bolded the bullet points in case you’re getting impatient, though I think the whole thing is worth reading:

Having spent the last five years putting all of my political will, interest and energy into fighting against the spread of same-sex marriage as if it were a contagious disease, I must admit that it is hard for me to put the following text into words let alone utter them with my own voice…

As you may already know, I was the one behind the 2010 Summer for Marriage Tour which the National Organization for Marriage sponsored and operated throughout July and August last year. It was my doing when, in March that year, I approached Brian Brown about sponsoring and participating in a series of traditional marriage rallies scattered around the Nation.

In fact, the tour route itself, while chosen largely by NOM itself, incorporated as many of the sites I had originally chosen and helped independently organize. Other locations were added due to strategic, political or simply logistical purposes.

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.

If my transition from opponent to supporter of same-sex civil marriage was a timeline, Atlanta would be indicated by the first point on the line. The next point on that timeline would be two months later.

After the marriage tour wrapped up and everyone went their separate ways, I transformed my marriage tour “Inside Look” blog to a more general blog about protecting marriage and opposing the homosexual agenda. Over the course of September and October I occupied my time writing up articles along these very lines. Some of the articles were fair, even if you disagree with them, but many of them I would now categorize as propaganda filled with strong and unnecessary rhetoric. This is especially true of the YouTube videos I made.

One article I wrote, towards the end of October, 2010 caught the attention of a blogger by the name of RJ, who writes on the blog AmIWorking He responded to my article about the homosexual agenda with an article addressed to personally to me regarding marriage equality. In short, his article had the miraculous effect of instantly putting things into prospective for me.

At that point, between what I had witnessed on the marriage tour and RJ’s post about marriage equality, I really came to understand that gays and lesbians were just real people who wanted to live real lives and be treated equally as opposed to, for example, wanting to destroy American culture. No, they didn’t want to destroy American culture, they wanted to openly participate in it. I was well on my way to becoming a supporter of civil marriage equality.

As a result of that I closed down my blog within a couple days…

I also removed the admins I had delegated my moderating duties to for my Facebook page.

Having done that, I had to pick up where they left off. I was largely taken aback by the fact that the page I created had become such a hateful place. My comments and rhetoric paled in comparison to what that place had turned into. I began to understand why the gay community was out there claiming opposition to same-sex civil marriage was all about hate.

I soon realized that there I was surrounded by hateful people; propping up a cause I created five years ago, a cause which I had begun starting to question. This would be timeline point number three. I wanted to extend an olive branch in some way and started to reinstate those who had been banned by previous administrators of my page. I welcomed them to participate on the page and did what I could do erase the worst comments and even ban those who posted them.

Also, I started regularly conversing with same-sex marriage supporters in another Facebook group. This further solidified my new perception of gays and lesbians as real people, not some faceless political opponent. That could be considered the next point on the timeline.

Lastly, I came to understand the difference between civil marriage and holy marriage as in the sacrament of the Catholic Church. Let me rephrase. I understood that but either willingly chose not to accept it or just didn’t see it. Regardless, I see it now and the significance of that is as follows:

Once you understand the great difference between civil marriage and holy marriage, there is not one valid reason to forbid the former from same-sex couples, and all that is left to protect is the latter.

Indeed Christians and Catholics alike are well within their right to demand that holy matrimony, a sacrament and service performed by the Church, recognized by the Church, remains between a man and a woman as their faith would dictate. However, that has nothing to do with civil marriage, performed and recognized by the State in accordance with state law.


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