In a surprising announcement, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said Neil G. Giuliano would step down from his post as president, a position he has held since September 2005.

In a statement released to the media on Wednesday, the group said Giuliano was departing to “pursue personal interests.”

The decision comes a day after the group announced its nominations for the 20th annual GLAAD Media Awards.

Under Giuliano's leadership, the group's budget grew from $7.5M to $11M.  He was critical in bringing new programs online and elevating the group's visibility, GLAAD said.

Criticism of traditional suit-and-tie gay activists, and how they manage their political capital, began to mount soon after voters in California passed a controversial constitutional amendment on November 4 that yanked back the right of gays and lesbians to marry in the state. The loss energized a burgeoning grassroots gay movement that rejected checkbook activism in favor of protests and demonstrations, while questioning the tone of the gay movement, its playbook and many of its leading organizations.

The choice of Giuliano to head the second largest gay and lesbian U.S. organization had always been considered unorthodox. The former Tempe, Arizona mayor built a 10 year political career as a Republican, while the politics of most gay advocates run blue.

And what's to become of Giuliano's newly launched outreach project that addresses gay and lesbian defamation in the vast sports media world?

Giuliano, 52, avoided all these topics, only saying a book about his public and political life was in the works.

“I have informed the national board of directors of my decision to step down as president late this year and look forward to a successful and smooth transition of leadership for GLAAD,” Giuliano said.

“It's been an honor and privilege to work professionally in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality for the last three and a half years. The views of the American people on LGBT issues are clearly moving in the right direction, toward supporting full equality, and it has been a great experience to serve on the front lines, leading an amazing organization at such a historic time in the movement.”

Giuliano will remain at GLAAD until his replacement is found.