Last year, the National Organization For Marriage (NOM) embarked on a disastrous 23-city “Summer for Marriage Tour 2010” to spread the gospel of one-man-one-woman marriage. Throughout the tour, bus driver Louis Marinelli — who ran NOM’s Twitter account and Facebook page — denounced gay people by claiming they have “shorter life spans” and are an “abomination” to natural law.
Well today, Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper reports that Marinelli — who still retains some preconceived notions about gay people — is “coming out in full support of the civil marriage rights that gay people are seeking” and he “credits exposure to the NOM tour as the very thing that led to his change of heart”:
Whether it is an issue of disbelief, shame or embarrassment, the one thing that is for sure is that I have come to this point after several months of an internal conflict with myself. That conflict gradually tore away at me until recently when I was able to, for the first time simply admit to myself that I do in fact support civil marriage equality for all. [...]
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.
As Marinelli writes on his own blog: “if there is an issue of embarrassment, its roots lie in the face-to-face encounters I have had and expect to have with those with whom I once toiled over this very contentious issue.”
Indeed, public opinion polling has found a correlation between knowing gay people and being supportive of equal rights for the LGBT community. For instance, according to a CBS News Poll from last year, “77 percent of Americans now say they know someone who is gay or lesbian,” an increase of 35 percentage points since 1992. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll also found that 53 percent of Americans now support marriage equality (up from only 32 percent support in 2004), including 53 percent of white Catholics and 57 percent of nonevangelical Protestants.
As Hooper put it in a Tweet this morning, “Today, my friends, we have more proof that exposure to our lives = @freedomtomarry.”