This explains a lot of NOM’s attempts to paint LGBT and allied counter-protesters as crazy, unstable people who will put their safety at jeopardy after Providence:
Last fall the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published an updated list of hate groups that are operating across the United States in which they included organizations such as the Family Research Council and the American Family Association. In doing so, SPLC cited multiple occasions when these organizations misrepresented the facts about gays and lesbians in the advancement of their ‘pro-family cause’.
To NOM’s delight, the SPLC did not include the National Organization for Marriage in that list. That was a mistake.
The National Organization for Marriage’s culture war/crusade against same-sex marriage is all about image and when it comes to the image of the LGBT community, it’s all about painting them in a negative way. That is why during the summer for marriage tour, a project of my doing which I organized with NOM last year, each of the rallies were presented in a good v.s. evil type theme.
In Albany, counter-protesters arrived at our rally with rainbow umbrellas and were silent. As you can see from the photo I took, the counter-protesters had their backs to us. They were giving us the silent treatment, so to say, to get their message across. Yet the National Organization for Marriage had this to say about them on their blog:
…they sure showed their true colors as intolerant, inconsiderate bullies who shout down and insult anyone who disagrees with them, including women and children.
Later in that same blog post, they referred to the silent counter-protesters as militant before moving onto the rally that took place in Providence, Rhode Island.
NOM’s summary of the rally in Providence says that the protesters were “crazy”. In all actuality, some of the pictures depicting their actions do make them appear that way and I was directly responsible for taking their pictures, as some of you know.
What you don’t know is that in an e-mail I received from Brian Brown, he essentially instructed me to specifically take ‘crazy’ photos of gays and lesbians. His short and to the point e-mail dated July 19, 2010 wrote:
I need crazy pictures of our opponents.
What is particularly necessary to point out is that his call for ‘crazy photos’ of NOM’s opponents was in response to an e-mail I sent to him six minutes earlier that simply wrote: “Here is a picture of our supporters before the protesters arrived.”
The photo I took showing the size and location of our supporters wasn’t enough. Mr. Brown was dedicated to painting the LGBT community and their supporters as crazy. They used that word themselves in public on their blog! To this day, I still don’t condone the actions that some of the counter-protesters took to stand against us. They were wrong when I opposed marriage equality and still believe so today.
From that point forward my job was, among other things, to take those ‘crazy’ photos that would be used as propaganda against the LGBT community. At least until the propaganda backfired, anyway. Many people who would have otherwise came out to support us, let us know that they were scared of what the counter-protesters might do and decided to stay home the day we were coming to town.
NOM is about deceiving the public about who gays and lesbians are because the longer the public fears them, the longer they will oppose their equality. I fell into that trap and then I came to see gays and lesbians for the people they really are – which by the way, is the exact reason I changed my mind to support marriage equality.
See how it all ties in?
The full post, including e-mail correspondence, can be found here.
Newsweek’s Eve Conant, who has been tracking NOM for some time, just published a lengthy piece on the story of Louis’ conversion, including the story of what happened while he sat on a bench in St. Louis with Anthony, and a quote from Louis’ mom:
The young Republican’s turnabout began last summer, when he was on the road with NOM after taking a break from teaching English in Russia. Marinelli, the product of a difficult divorce, had been running an anti-gay marriage Facebook site that he says funneled donations to NOM and had, in the spring of 2010, contracted with the group to help with a summer bus tour and online outreach. “I started to see that they were not just political targets, they were real people who just… wanted to get married. It started to feel like a petty issue.”
The tour was meant to drum up support for traditional marriage, but at every step NOM workers and supporters were followed by pro-gay activists. The Courage Campaign, a progressive alliance based in California, sent out field director Arisha Hatch and cameraman Anthony Ash to cover the events, often conducting quick and terse interviews with NOM leaders and supporters, including Marinelli. Marinelli says he just wanted to hold on to a lifestyle he held dear. He was an altar boy who briefly attended Catholic school, and as an adult he was determined to protect traditional values. “I saw gay marriage as just another liberal iconoclastic attack on traditional culture,” he said.
His mother, Karen Clark, said she’s surprised at his change, but not the reasons behind it: “I knew he wasn’t against gay people, he just really supports traditional marriage.” He’s the kind of man, she says “who wants only a Tiffany ring for his fiancée once he gets engaged.”
While on the NOM tour in Atlanta, Marinelli recalled looking out at a crowd of some 300 counterprotesters supporting gay marriage, and it floored him. “I started to wonder—what was I doing here?” he said. “That’s the point when I first started to question myself.” But he kept on toeing the NOM line. During the tour, he helped with logistics, driving, sound checks, advertising, and Internet promotion, tweeting about the immorality of gays. In early August he said he sat on a park bench in St. Louis with cameraman Ash, a 29-year-old gay man who asked him questions on camera, resulting in a typically cold interview—until Ash turned off the camera.
“I asked Louis, ‘Can we just be real for a minute’?” said Ash, who was devoting his summer to tracking NOM’s every move. He said Marinelli asked him why Ash had covered his ID badge one day when Marinelli took a photo of it. “I told him it was out of safety, that one NOM supporter had said the solution to gay marriage was lynching, and I was looking out for myself.” (Ash said he was punched and his camera damaged during a subsequent NOM tour.) They talked briefly about their lives, and Ash told Marinelli he had a family whom he had left for the summer to fight NOM. He said he also did drag. “He laughed. You could tell he was uncomfortable, it was kind of overload for him, but he laughed,” said Ash.
That conversation had a lasting impact, said Marinelli. “I realized he was someone I could talk to, not someone I wanted to go after anymore,” he said. “Anthony helped change me because I finally saw someone personally affected by what I was doing.”
Marinelli paused. “I started to see that they were not just political targets, they were real people who just… wanted to get married. It started to feel like a petty issue.”
The power of personal, one-on-one, Courageous conversations. A story we can use with family, friends and colleagues.
Last night, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell covered the story, including Anthony’s sit-down on a park bench with Louis and the letter Louis wrote for Courage Campaign:
Key quote from O’Donnell:
This is video posted on YouTube from last summer by one of the Courage Campaign’s groups. It shows Louis Marinelli sitting on a bench when someone from the Courage Campaign approached.
This is one of the moments that began to change the mind of conservative Republican Louis Marinelli about the fight he was fighting before he ultimately changed sides.
Like I wrote on Tuesday, contributions on behalf of Louis go to this successful model — story-telling and making LGBT people visible so others can see how they are affected. Louis wrote that contributions to Courage Campaign would go towards changing hearts and minds. We talked to MSNBC about the story, we put him in touch with Anthony, we got them videos from the tour, which they played on air, and a copy of the letter, which they showed on air, and told them why it was so important.
Well, a lot of people who are unsure about same-sex marriage might have watched last night. In fact, I know a few myself back home. This might help change a few more minds… and open the minds of others. In other words, we’re putting your contributions to work.
This is how we’re going to move America together. This is Courage. Proud to be here with you.
A few (very) quick thoughts that come to mind about Louis Marinelli’s news today.
Out of all the people on the NOM Tour, I could never quite understand why Louis cared so much about the freedom to marry. I got why Brian Brown was there, even “understood” Maggie Gallagher’s motivations, but Louis’ attachment to the issue always seemed puzzling to me. In part because he’s agnostic, in part because he’s so young, figuring Louis out became sort of a daily obsession for me – a daily dialogue between the two of us – many times off-camera.
I can remember saying to him at one point, “I just don’t get it. I just don’t get you.”
But I finished that tour and felt that we had become friends in a weird way. We had taken this long – sometimes stressful – road trip together; we both saw America through a very particular lens for a summer.
We hugged at the end.
I am so proud of what Louis said today. It takes real Courage to stand up to a boss like Brian; It takes real Courage to admit that you’ve changed your mind; and it takes tremendous Courage to do it in the public way that Louis has.
You read that right. P8TT friend Jeremy Hooper has the exclusive. If you need reminding, here’s our Louis (hi, Louis!):
and where 254 equality supporters turned out to silently and peacefully oppose the 20 or so NOM supporters:
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.
As many of you may remember, I first came onboard P8TT last summer to document the NOM tour here on the front page. All I can say is, I am proud of this site and the people and organizations behind turning out so many equality supporters. I am proud that Arisha, Anthony, Phyllis and Danny spent weeks on the road to document the tour and force NOM and their staff to answer the hard questions. As you can see from reading Jeremy’s interview, the experience of talking to Anthony and our staff and reading this blog and your comments, and seeing so many real families who just want the same basic civil rights as anyone else, ended up making the difference. Over one thousand of youcontributed on this very page to fund NOM Tour Tracker expenses to support this work, and ended up changing the mind of one of NOM’s leaders. We made a difference together!
If you continue to support the work we’re doing tracking NOM and want to chip in to get more success stories (Maggie next? Sky’s the limit!!), here’s that page again. Thanks for your support, thanks for making this page a place to change hearts and minds, and here’s to seeing what happens next!
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