The former online strategist for the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage has defected and now says he wants to help gays and lesbians win the right to civil marriage.

Louis Marinelli helped organise the US group’s 2010 Summer Tour but said that during the event, the lesbian and gay activists he met “became real people” to him.

During his time with NOM, he said that gays were an “abomination” and that homosexuality leads to a shorter lifespan.

He defected last week, telling Goodasyou.org that he retracted most of the homophobic statements he had made in the last year.

Mr Marinelli said he still personally believes that homosexuality is wrong and has health risks. But he now says that this is no reason not to give gay couples full equality in the law.

He told the website about his conversion while on NOM’s summer bus 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.”

He added: “I really came to understand that gays and lesbians were just real people who wanted to live real lives and be treated equally as opposed to, for example, wanting to destroy American culture. No, they didn’t want to destroy American culture, they wanted to openly participate in it.

“Once you understand the great difference between civil marriage and holy marriage, there is not one valid reason to forbid the former from same-sex couples, and all that is left to protect is the latter. ”

Mr Marinelli said he appreciated NOM’s work in highlighting the importance of marriage but called the group’s followers “hateful”.

He said: “My transition from an opponent of same-sex marriage to a supporter does not mean I suddenly think homosexuality is a good thing. 



”I personally disagree with it. The same way I disagree with many other things other people do with their lives. That doesn’t give me or anyone else the right to prevent homosexuals from being homosexuals or to take away their constitutionally protected civil rights as American citizens.”

In another interview with Towleroad.com, Mr Marinelli said he wanted to help the fight for marriage equality.

He said: “I don’t really have the platform in which to do anything but if I was given the platform or opportunity to participate in any kind of activity or campaign or anything, any organisation that I can help, I’m willing to help to the extent possible.”