- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

"As many of you know, the barstool at Mr. P's wasn't empty two years ago," John Paulk says in an advertisement for a conference tomorrow on leaving the homosexual lifestyle.

Mr. Paulk, a former drag queen who gained fame a decade ago for renouncing his homosexuality and marrying a former lesbian, said he was seen having a beer in Dupont Circle, the heart of D.C.'s homosexual neighborhood.

"Obviously, it was a big deal," he says in the full-page ad for tomorrow's event, which appeared this week in the Washington City Paper.

The conference, called "Love Won Out," is one of several of its kind held each year by Focus on the Family. The group, which has held these conferences since 1998, maintains that homosexuality is "preventable and treatable."

"Here I was, chairman of the board of Exodus International, a staff member at Focus on the Family and a leader of the ex-gay movement and for more than a decade I had been telling others that I had overcome homosexuality. But it sure didn't look like it that night, did it?" he said.

Mr. Paulk says he is willing to talk about that September night at Mr. P's and what he did and didn't do, but he is more interested in explaining why leaving homosexuality is a journey that "thousands like me will never regret taking."

Around 14,000 people have attended these conferences to date, and around 900 people, including many family members of homosexuals, are expected tomorrow at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Focus on the Family officials said.

The Focus on the Family conferences have typically attracted homosexual protesters and tomorrow will be no exception. So-called "ex-ex-gays" (homosexuals who are disenchanted with ex-gay ministries); Daryl Herrschaft, a homosexual activist who met Mr. Paulk in Mr. P's and heard Mr. Paulk say he was still a homosexual; and Wayne Besen, who photographed Mr. Paulk leaving the bar that night, are expected to be part of a "John Paulk Welcoming Committee" at the church.

"Focus on the Family is going out of their way to advertise and antagonize and they're not being truthful," said Mr. Besen, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual-rights activist group.

"They have grossly misrepresented our lives and said things that are patently untrue," Mr. Besen said. Statements like "gay people can't be happy" and "gays cannot be close to their same-sex parent" are just hurtful stereotypes, he said.

Last week, The Washington Post ran an ad for the conference featuring Amy Tracy, a former lesbian who became a Christian in 1995 and left the lifestyle.

Miss Tracy, who was a high-profile D.C. feminist as press secretary for the National Organization for Women, will give her testimony at the conference.

The Washington Blade, however, rejected an ad for the conference, citing a policy adopted in 1999.

After Mr. Paulk was spotted in Mr. P's, he was disciplined by his employers, which is evidence of discrimination, William Waybourn, president of Window Media LLC, which publishes the Washington Blade, said in an Oct. 21 internal e-mail.

Company policy is that "we will not knowingly do business with companies and organizations that discriminate against lesbians and gay men," he said.

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