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April 18, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A new media activist against same-sex “marriage” who joined forces with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) last year has changed sides, and has taken a 290,000-strong Facebook page with him.

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Thousands of marriage supporters were left in confusion after the Facebook page “Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman” was converted into a gay rights page run by Louis J. Marinelli, with a new graphic showing a photo of Marinelli with the words, “I support marriage equality, stand with me.”

The page originated as a project of Marinelli’s, who also spoke out regarding marriage independently of NOM via Twitter.

Marinelli told Sirius radio host Michael Signorele that the Facebook effort began in 2006, and that after the page took off, the 25-year-old activist contacted NOM Executive Director Brian Brown to pool efforts in moderating it.

But then something changed. Marinelli explained his public turnaround this month in an online manifesto, saying that he was struck by the “inspiring” counter-protests at NOM rallies, especially where the actual pro-family turnout was “dismal.”

While still supporting heterosexual-only unions for religious “holy marriage,” Marinelli says he does not support the same for civil marriage. “To this day I still have a very special feeling about what marriage is,” he said.

Marinelli said his previous reasoning for opposing same-sex “marriage” was “due to the fact that I didn’t like it and I didn’t think it was good for our society,” and that he changed his mind when he realized the personal dignity of homosexuals who felt personally maligned by traditional-marriage supporters.

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“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,” he said, describing an experience during the Atlanta, Georgia stop of the NOM marriage tour.

The change of heart was foreshadowed in December, when Marinelli publicly advocated the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, favoring open homosexuality in the U.S. military.

NOM’s Brian Brown said in a statement earlier this month that Marinelli “worked in a volunteer capacity as a bus driver during our summer marriage tour. Around this time, NOM began to pay him as a part-time consultant for helping us expand our internet reach. He has since chosen a different focus. We wish him well.”

Marinelli had claimed in the online statement that he was “the one behind” NOM’s 2010 Summer for Marriage Tour, saying that the tour route “incorporated as many of the sites I had originally chosen and helped independently organize.” However, Marinelli downplayed his role in the tour during the Signorele interview, saying that he approached Brown “casually” about the idea and that NOM “indicated they were [already] thinking something along the same lines.”

He also denied that he was “instrumental” to NOM, a claim that is now being trumpeted by various gay and other media.  “I wouldn’t use that adjective to describe it. … I don’t see that my role was so significant. I did moderate the Facebook page and I did help with the bus tour, but I wasn’t the head of the organization or anything like that,” he said.

Marinelli apologized for his more callous anti-gay comments on Twitter and elsewhere, and denied that NOM had a part in those words. “Everything that I ever said was something that I said on my own accord, was never told to say anything like that.”

Last week, Marinelli returned to the Signorele show to say that Brown has “tried to intimidate” him into no longer speaking about NOM and may pursue legal action. In a blog post Thursday, Brown confirmed that there are “potential litigation issues” regarding Marinelli, but reiterated that “we wish him well.”

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