June 13, 2018
It's been two full years since it happened. People were still dancing at a nightclub on the south side of Orlando, when a gunman walked through the doors and brutally ended the lives of 49 people. India Goodman says she can still feel the body slumped against her in the dark, shielding her from bullets. She's just one of the survivors who says their story changed forever.
Luis Javier Ruiz is another. Like so many others in the Pulse nightclub that night, Luis thinks a lot about what could have happened. He looks back on his struggles then, identifying as a gay man, and believes -- without a doubt -- that it was the lowest point of his life. "I should have been number 50," he posted after the tragedy. An emotional Ruiz talked about how difficult things had been, even before the horror that June night.
"Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV. My struggles were real! The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ... I've grown to know His love in a deeper level. Two out of the 49 were my close friends and are no longer with us. They lost their life that night. I should have been number 50, but now... I know who I am and I am not defined with who the enemy says I use to be -- but who Christ Jesus says I am."
Luis went public with his story, joining the Freedom March in early May with other people who've walked away from a lifestyle that brought nothing but pain. "It's not a gay-to-straight thing," he tells reporters, "but a lost to save[d] thing." During his recovery, he remembers, members of a local church came in and prayed with him. They shared portions of Scripture and told him about the love of God. Through that, he says, "I was able to not only just be free of the lifestyle but be free of me in general -- from every type of sin."
Two years later, he wants others to find the same freedom he has. But in places like California, opponents are doing everything they can to keep people from experiencing the healing Luis knows. Under a bill that's working its way through the not so Golden State legislature, it would be outright illegal to offer the kind of help or counseling that changed Luis's life. LGBT activists, the same ones who used to plead for the right to live any way they pleased, are trying to take that freedom away from others by making it a crime to offer paid counseling to people who are voluntarily seeking help. And that includes pastors or other faith-based therapists!
Yesterday, at a committee hearing for the measure, AB 2943, Luis had an opportunity to share his story and how unfair it would be to rob others of that same second chance. "The Pulse nightclub shooting was a very tragic event, and I lost many friends... And I don't feel that someone should dictate and tell me that I can't go seek help for any of that. I think we should vote 'no!'" he told the rally beforehand.
And he wasn't alone. Three hundred fifty people -- from all across the state and from all walks of life -- testified against AB 2943, including our good friend, Pastor Jack Hibbs. Even pro golfer Kris Olsen has opened up about how dangerous the bill would be.
"I fell into the world of homosexuality... [and] eventually I found help -- a faith-based group of people like me who wanted their feelings to come into alignment with their faith... It was the beginning of the freedom that I stand before you with today. I am now free from my former feelings of same-sex attraction and lesbian behavior that warred in my soul. AB2943 violates my right to choose. It is a blatant violation of my First Amendment rights..."
Activists like state Senator Scott Wiener (D), who openly identify as gay, take personal offense to the idea that anyone would want to change. "Conversion therapy is psychological torture," he argued without a scrap of evidence to prove it. "There are people who want to erase people like me... It is shocking in some ways that in 2018 that this is still happening." Obviously, that's ridiculous. No one wants to erase anyone! Nor is this "conversion therapy," as he called it, torture! Opponents want you to believe that counselors hook people up to electromagnetic shock machines or some such nonsense, when actually, this is voluntary counseling -- which, for the most part consists of a pastor or licensed psychologist talking through the very personal struggle of sexuality.
As the co-founder for Voice of the Voiceless says, "We made a conscious choice to leave homosexuality, and we should be able to do that without being mocked." Unfortunately for him, the same LGBT activists who said we should all "live and let live" have moved on. They're on a march to force every American to celebrate and affirm what they do under the penalty of law. And, like so many on the far-Left, they have a selective view of "choice." They're in favor of it -- only if you choose their side. What happened to the "Q" in LGBTQ? Wasn't that was supposed to represent "questioning?" Isn't there room for people in the movement who may be questioning whether this is still the best decision?
So far, not in California. The committee voted to move the bill to the full Senate by a 4-2 vote. Hopefully, there's enough outcry to force state senators to think twice before passing it. If you're a Californian, take the time to contact your state senators and remind them that religious liberty and free speech is for everyone! For more information, check out The Hidden Truth about Changing Sexual Orientation by FRC's Peter Sprigg.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.