Dual Bus Tours for Marriage Equality: A Wrecked Opportunity?
The Village Voice took note of two different bus tours to promote marriage equality nationwide after New York became the latest state -- and currently the largest state -- to extend legal parity to gay and lesbian families.
One bus tour, the Aug. 2 Village Voice article noted, was to have been undertaken by National Organization of Marriage defector Louis Marinelli, together with Kitty Lambert, a New York woman whose marriage to her same-sex life partner was among the first to be granted in New York.
As reported at EDGE, Marinelli had worked with the anti-gay NOM as its travel coordinator for NOM’s own road show, which promoted legal discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. But being on the road and having a chance to interact with real gay people brought Marinelli new understanding that the families whose rights he was helping abrogate were flesh and blood, rather than some ideological construct.
Marinelli founded the similarly named National Organization for Marriage Equality, and was set to bring his skills and experience to the new group’s own national tour when the Human Rights Campaign unveiled its own traveling marriagepalooza.
"Coincidence?" asked the Village Voice article. "Marinelli says no. HRC says yes.
"Regardless, it may keep one of the most significant people to flip on this issue from being able to hit the road as a convert."
Even upon his high-profile conversion from anti-gay zealot to marriage equality supporter, the HRC seemed to take aim at Marinelli, issuing a statement saying that Marinelli "did harm to the LGBT community."
Added the release, "He was the strategist behind NOM’s multi-state 2010 Summer Bus Tour and a key digital strategist for the organization, writing things like, ’Those who wish to promote homosexual behavior are encouraging people to shorten their life spans.’ "
Other GLB equality advocates also seemed to embrace Marinelli less than wholeheartedly at first, possibly based on those claims.
GLBT news site Good As You examined Marinelli’s history with NOM and commented on Marinelli’s "Incendiary tweets" regarding GLBTs, such as the one regarding the life expectancy of gay men, a longstanding -- and long-discredited -- claim touted by anti-gay groups that originated with anti-gay activist Paul Cameron.
Cameron, who was expelled by the American Psychological Association in 1983, is the founder of the anti-gay Family Research Institute. His studies purporting to show that gays are inherently unhealthy have been widely lambasted by health professionals and condemned by professional organizations such as the American Sociological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association for his "consistent misrepresentation of sociological research," as the ASA phrased it in a 1986 APA resolution. In 1996, the CPA approved a similar resolution renouncing Cameron for "consistently [having] misinterpreted and misrepresented research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism," according to a Wikipedia article.
Marinelli’s use of Cameron’s claims is standard for anti-gay groups seeking to pathologize GLBTs, and is based on an assumption that gays will invariably contract HIV through sexual contact. In an interview conducted via email, Marinelli repudiated his earlier stance.
"I quoted from the research of Paul Cameron when I said that homosexuals have a shorter life-span," Marinelli wrote to Good As You correspondent Jeremy Hooper. "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," added Marinelli.
"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."
Marinelli explained how his work with the anti-gay group resulted in his becoming a supporter of gay family parity.
"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," Marinelli recounted. "It was my doing when, in March that year, I approached [NOM president] Brian Brown about sponsoring and participating in a series of traditional marriage rallies scattered around the Nation."
Continued Marinelli, "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."
Next: Turning to Equality