Many of you have already heard the remarkable story of Louis J. Marinelli, a former campaigner against marriage equality who has since changed his mind. And so many incredible sites, especially our brilliant friend Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou.org have done brilliant work not only chronicling this story, but helping to make it happen.
Louis Marinelli in front of NOM's tour bus last summer
Tonight, Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC spoke about Louis’ story in a way that made me realize this is the perfect story for us to share at Talk About Equality. Louis once ran his own anti-gay organization called Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman. And last summer, he became a strategist and organizer for the hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Louis helped organize the “Summer for Marriage Tour” for NOM and even drove the bus. This tour met with counter-protests which greatly outnumbered their attendees in nearly every city. The final stop on the tour was Washington D.C., where Talk About Equality’s Sean Carlson led a group of organizers to put together “The Big Commit,” which was one of the largest cooperative events among LGBT organizations ever seen.
Also along the tour, California’s Courage Campaign followed every move NOM made. They recorded their interactions and the counter-protests all along the route. Arisha and Anthony from the Courage Campaign interviewed attendees to NOM’s tour in addition to some of the big players on the tour – one of those players was Louis Marinelli. In Louis’ letter to supporters of the Courage Campaign today, he said:
“Throughout the summer tour, Courage Campaign’s Arisha and Anthony approached me several times. I remember sitting on a bench in St. Louis, Missouri alone with Anthony for a few minutes. It was then that I empathized with Anthony and who he was for the first time, although I did not tell him. I understood that my work wasn’t affecting faceless, nameless political targets but instead good people like Anthony who just wanted to participate in all that America is.”
Through many interviews Arisha and Anthony gave with Louis, Louis felt that he was seeing them as more than just a political opponent. This all stems back to our theory of how our country is changing. Through telling our stories through educating others, we can change the world. As Harvey Milk said, “They vote for us 2-to-1 if they know one of us.” It is our stories and specifically how we tell them which will cause the most change.
Please. Think for a moment and craft your story of self. Think about the moment when you realized who you are – be it a gay man, a lesbian, bisexual, transgender or an ally. Tell that story to a friend and work on it. Keep it short and keep it simple and remember the things that made you want to fight for equality. Then tell it to another person. And another. And another. It is YOUR story that is going to change things. It is your story that is going to make this country a place where all people live equally. Look at how many brave people are out there telling their stories now – look at the kids who are fighting to bring their same-sex partner to prom. Look at the kids who are suing to have gay-straight alliance clubs in their high schools and colleges. Look at kids like Will Phillips, a straight 11-year old from Arkansas who one day refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because he didn’t feel it was true. Will believed the phrase “with liberty and justice for all” was incoherent with current laws because lesbians and gays were not allowed to marry. I’ll leave you with Will’s speech from “The Big Commit” in DC, where Will put NOM on notice.