A former Democratic committee member from Pennsylvania said that her Catholic faith and beliefs on the sanctity of marriage led her to leave the party several months ago.
“The reason I switched parties is because of my faith,” said Jo Ann Nardelli, a prominent Pennsylvania state committeewoman who made headlines by leaving the Democratic Party for the Republican Party in May.
Nardelli, who was also the first vice president of the Pennsylvania State Federation of Democratic Women and had actively worked to support the candidacies of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, spoke at a teleconference after the first 2012 presidential debate on Oct. 3.
She explained that she has always been a “pro-life Democrat” and a “devout Catholic.”
However, after more than 40 years of allegiance to the party, she began to feel distance growing in recent months as the “Democrats seemed to be moving more and more to the left with their beliefs.”
“I always knew that being a pro-life Democrat was a little difficult,” she acknowledged, but said that it was “doable” because “there are a few of us around.”
However, the “last straw” came on Sunday, May 6 as she and her husband, eating breakfast before Church, saw Vice President Joe Biden speaking in favor of “gay marriage” on Meet the Press.
“I respect Vice President Biden very much,” Nardelli said, describing how the vice president’s Irish Catholicism reminds her of her late father.
But as she watched him state that same-sex unions were no different from marriage, she said, “I was sick. I had a pit in my stomach.”
When President Barack Obama offered a complete endorsement of same-sex marriage a few days later and the Democratic Party began to work towards redefining marriage in its platform, “I knew I had to make the change,” she said.
She explained that she began to receive notices of meetings that increasingly included support of “gay marriage.”
“I knew that eventually, in my positions, I was going to have to sign on to the bandwagon and promote this agenda,” she said. “But I could not.”
“Therefore I knew I had to resign all my positions, dissolve my affiliations with the Democratic Party, take a stand and change to the Republican Party,” she said.
Nardelli emphasized that she has friends and family members who are gay and that she does not hate gay people. Rather, she said, her Catholic faith teaches her “marriage is between a man and a woman.”
“I really thought I could make a difference and bring back the party that I used to know,” she reflected, adding that she eventually realized that the Democratic Party “of today is not my father’s party of yesterday.”
“I did not leave the party of Democrats,” she said. “The party left me.”
While her family and friends have respected her decision to leave the party, some Democrats have called Nardelli “a bigot, a theocrat and worse.”
Although the decision was difficult and required her to give up “everything I had worked for,” she said that she now feels “free and lifted” to express her beliefs.
She added that she has received letters and emails “from all over the country” applauding her courage in standing up for her beliefs.
“I gave up all my positions to follow my beliefs and my faith and my God,” she said, “and countless others have told me that now they have the courage to do the same.”