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Gay Author and Former Right-Wing Activist on Life as an Odd Man Out

Gay Author and Former Right-Wing Activist on Life as an Odd Man Out


Once a lawyer for the antigay American Family Association, Joe Murray is now an out, married gay man. He shares his story in his book Odd Man Out.

Devoutly Catholic and deeply conservative, Joe Murray (formerly the American Family Association lawyer who coined the term "sodomy squadron," now an out gay man) has a lot of opinions that aren't exactly common among LGBT people--perspectives that speak to the accuracy of the title of his book, Odd Man Out.

To wit:

"I think the LGBT lobby and the Pro-Life lobby have a shared interest that could show America that there is common ground when it comes to abortion."

"When I first came out, I struggled with my identity because I knew I did not like, or appreciate, gay culture as it was defined on blogs, websites, and other periodicals. Gay culture appeared to be all about sex and rebellion. This is not a creation of the Right, but a reality of the gay community. Gay magazines, internet sites, and parades often feature a heightened sexuality. Clothes are taboo and bashing organized religion is in. I always cringed when I saw the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence because I viewed such mockery as blashphemy. I did not want to be part of a community that had mocked my faith and featured an abnormal focus on sex."

"Unwillingness to stem the tide of illegal immigration is resulting in a change of America's demography. In just a matter of decades, those who trace their ancestry back to Europe will be outnumbered by those who trace their ancestry to third world nations in Central America, South America, Asia, and Africa. These newcomers, especially the Hispanics, are not assimilating and have made it clear they have no intention to. ... America is facing a hostile takeover and the ties that bind are being unwound."

Considering his conservative viewpoints, particularly on racial issues, Murray's choice of foreword writers seems surprising. Pam Spaulding is the former blogmistress at the progressive LGBT hub Pam's House Blend; she's also a black woman.

"As you read this book, you'll see the overarching theme of family, faith, and belief in principles is strongly held, and beautifully painted in this picture by Joe. I can disagree on some of the points made -- mostly because as a person of color and as a woman, my life experiences tell a different story of America, and how the Constitution has and has not protected my rights in the same way as someone with white privilege or socioeconomic advantage at times," she writes. "However, when you can sit down as people on opposite sides of the political spectrum and find commonality in one's humanity, you realize that it's a small world, and we have only a short time on it. Making connections -- over some nice mimosas in Vegas -- like I have with Joe Murray is gratifying."

Those connections are largely what Murray is about. He loves the idea of finding common ground. Not that he's seeking for everyone to agree with him; in fact, he loves a debate (hence his profession as an attorney, he says).

"My biggest thing ... I want the reader to stop regurgitating rhetoric and tart thinking critically on these issues," Murray says. "I want everyone to reach a decision ... based not on who they are but on their own critical thinking."

In Odd Man Out, Murray writes about his childhood, his Catholic upbringing, and his stint as part of the religious right. And he discusses his coming-out, which occurred when he was nearly 30. A friend encouraged him to write the book because of his unusual point of view and perspective on "bridging the gap" between LGBT people and the religious right. He doubted anyone would buy it, but his friend persisted and until Murray agreed to write Odd Man Out, and he's been pleasantly surprised by the rate of sales.

Murray has apologized for his "sodomy squadron" piece and some of the other things he said with regard to LGBT issues. But he has otherwise retained most of his pre-coming out views.

"When I wrote these things [about LGBT people], I was young and I was very much in denial," he says. He acknowledges that he feels some remorse about not being as truthful as he should have about his own identity -- but on a conscious level, he said, he didn't have a clue he was gay. "I'm a man of few regrets."

As a Catholic, Murray says he's had priests who've been supportive on his identity, and "I have not shied away from who I am." In fact, he's encountered more issues with evangelicals who don't accept Catholics as Christians than he has within the Catholic Church.

"I think they're [the Catholic Church] going in the right direction," he says, though he thinks there are a lot of cardinals yet to be won over. He said he respects the church while thinking it has "room to improve and grow." He thinks it will keep moving -- but will not change overnight. ("Look at how long poor Joan of Arc had to wait," he says.)

There could also be a wait (though perhaps a short one) for marriage equality to reach Mississippi, where Murray and his husband live.

"Marriage equality is most likely coming," Murray says. "And the AFA [based in Tupelo, Miss.] will have lost in its own back yard."

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