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Anti-Gay Confab Protested
by John Paulk Welcoming Committee

Compiled by GayToday

Springfield, Virginia --The John Paulk Welcoming Committee (JPWC) thanked the close to one- hundred protesters who picketed Focus on the Family's anti-gay 'Love Won Out' conference in Springfield, Virginia on Saturday.

For three hours the demonstrators waved signs and demanded that Focus on the Family stop their campaign of discrimination, dishonesty and hate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their families. The "Love Won Out" conference seeks to change a person's sexual orientation through discredited therapy and prayer.
The John Paulk Welcoming Committee in Springfield, Virginia

The anti-gay symposium was led by "ex-gay" spokesman John Paulk, who was caught in a gay bar two years ago, despite appearing on Oprah, 60 Minutes and the cover of Newsweek magazine saying he had gone from gay to straight.

Several signs condemned Paulk's hypocrisy and urged him to stop deceiving and deluding people - including himself. One sign reading "John Paulk Hit On Me", was carried by JPWC organizer Daryl Herrschaft. The sign memorialized Paulk's September 19, 2000 trip to Washington's Mr. P's, the oldest gay bar in the city.

Another said "I Saw J. Paulk in a Gay Saloon."

Yet another said, "Paulk, Unlike Focus, We Love You For Who You Are."

Wayne Besen lets everyone know when he saw John Paulk "We had a great turnout and we helped a lot of people struggling with the lies put forth by Focus on the Family's well-funded misinformation campaign," said Wayne Besen, JPWC spokesperson, and author of the upcoming book, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.

"How phony and tragic it is to tell people that you will 'love' them if they will only change who they are and abandon their basic humanity. We reached many people who had never heard that they could be gay and live rich, fulfilling, happy lives and be loved unconditionally for who they are. This message resonated with many of the suffering people we encountered attending the conference."

"Our message made it to dozens of conference goers, some of whom were visibly depressed and conflicted," said Herrschaft. "They conversed with protesters and were drawn to the feeling of openness, acceptance and free expression that the demonstration provided. John Paulk and his cronies aren't helping these people or the other conference goers, they are hurting them and providing the tools and the justification for them to hurt others."

Close to 1,000 people attended the seminar at Immanuel Bible Church, in suburban Fairfax County, Virginia. The grass roots demonstration encompassed a coalition of groups and individuals throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

There were also "ex-ex-gays" on-hand; people who have been through the "ex-gay" ministries and say these groups are harmful and ineffective.

Protesters came from as far away as Roanoke, Virginia., and ranged in age from senior citizens to high school students. Dozens of local youth attended the protest with an array of colorful signs.

Many of the signs focused on religious messages such as: "God Made Me This Way" and, "God Loves Me, And I'm Gay", while others signs like, "Straight, But Not Narrow" and "Celebrate Who You Are, Not Who You Are Not," highlighted the diversity of the crowd. Chants at the rally included, "Who do we want? John Paulk! Where do we want him? Mr. P's!"

"These conferences tell vulnerable and desperate people that they are defective when it is, in fact, the message of Focus on the Family that is broken and in need of change," added Besen.

"Tragically, these road shows are about making money and gaining political power for the extreme right wing. No matter how fringe or disreputable, they will probably continue as long as extremist groups are profiting off the backs of gay people."

The American Psychological Association say efforts to change sexual orientation can cause "depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior." The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association and the American Association of Pediatrics also condemn "reparative" therapy and say it can often be harmful.

From the very beginning, the "ex-gay" ministries have been enmeshed in a series of high profile failures. In addition to the crestfallen Paulk, the following are the most well publicized defections and scandals in the colorful annals of "ex-gay" history:

  • In 1973, John Evans, co-founded the world's first modern "ex-gay" ministry, Love In Action, on the outskirts of San Francisco. However, after Evans' best friend Jack McIntyre committed suicide in despair over not being able to change, Evans realized that the program was not working and denounced Love in Action. To this day, the co-founder of the world's original "ex-gay" ministry condemns the program as a dangerous - and sometimes fatal - fraud.

  • In the early 1970's Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee were counselors at an "ex-gay" ministry in Anaheim, Calif. In 1976, they organized the first national conference of "ex-gay" ministries. At this conference, Exodus International was formed and it is now the world's largest "ex-gay" organization. While traveling on behalf of Exodus, the two men acknowledged that they had not changed and were in love with each other. They soon divorced their wives, moved in together and eventually held a commitment ceremony.

  • In 1979, Seventh Day Adventist minister Colin Cook founded Homosexuals Anonymous (HA). Appearing twice on the Phil Donahue show, he solidified his reputation in the early 80's as the nation's premier "ex-gay" spokesperson.

    But Cook's efforts collapsed in 1986 after he was exposed for giving clients nude massages. Cook moved to Colorado and made a comeback in 1992 by helping Colorado for Family Values and Focus on the Family promote their anti-gay agenda. But in 1995, Cook's efforts unraveled, once again, after several of Cook's clients accused him of phone sex and inappropriate hugs.

  • In 2000, Wade Richard's appeared as a media spokesperson for a group called the Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth and gave his testimony of "change" at a major press conference sponsored by right-wing leader Peter LaBarbera, who now works for an affiliate of Concerned Women for America. But a year later, Richards rebuked the "ex-gay" ministries when he came out in an interview with the Advocate magazine.

  • In 1987, Jeremy Marks founded Courage, London's first "ex-gay" ministry. In 2001, after nearly 15 years of watching people - including himself - struggle in vain to change, he renounced Exodus's methods by saying that they were failing in their efforts to change peoples' sexual orientation.

    "Those who do not study history are destined to repeat it," said Herrshaft. "And the history of the 'ex-gay' myth is clearly one of extreme sadness and failure. We implore Focus on the Family to stop this campaign of ill will and tell the truth: Many people escape the 'ex-gay' hoax and go on to live satisfying, spiritually-fulfilling lives as openly gay men and women."
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