As soon as we walked out of the hotel’s conference room that was adjacent to the California State Capital, I was immediately intimidated. As someone who prides herself on not cowering to the opinions of others, this surprisingly stretched me. When we walked into the Capitol with black t-shirts on that said in white text “changed” on the front and “oncegay.com” on the back, there was no turning back. We stepped out as a unified team to voice our concerns. Thirty something people, many from California, but also from other states. All different stories and stages of life. All there to say our lives are not fraudulant.
The Capitol was packed with protestors for various bills that would be voted on the following day. It was surreal walking into a government building and being met by many other groups, in their own custom t-shirts and signs, protesting all sorts of things. It was particularly intimidating when those in various groups turned their attentions off of gathering for their cause, and began to jeer at our group that was quietly walking up to the Senator’s offices.
I can only liken what I experienced at that moment to the bullying I often endured as a kid. Like when I would be bullied as I played sports. When I would walk into the school gym only to be met by guys hurling insults at me about my weight as I walked by in my snug uniform. When I was there to be a part of a team but was assaulted by comments about my appearance. Childish ignorant hateful banter. That’s the best way I could describe first walking into the Capitol.
So, here we were. A group gathered to oppose AB2943. When my friend Ken Williams asked if I would join them just a few weeks before, I didn’t take it lightly. Because you see, I’m most definitely not a political person.
I don’t openly support certain political parties.
I avoid posting on Facebook about politics.
I don’t watch Fox News.
I didn’t vote for Trump (or Hilary).
However, when Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning (founders of Equipped to Love) invited me to join them on the steps of the Capitol to share my story… I found myself saying yes.
The one who is not political.
When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending. – Brene Brown.
Why did I go? Well, it’s simple. This bill threatens Californian’s rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and their pursuit of happiness. My friend’s live in California. I was born and raised in that beautiful state. I went to support my friends and in the way that California often sets the precedent for the rest of the nation, I went to lend voice in stopping this misguided effort to “protect” citizens that could influence other states.
The bill AB 2943 bans what it defines as “reparative therapy”. It defines reparative therapy as “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual,” defined as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual, or romantic attractions, or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
This means that anytime money is exchanged for a service such as counseling, a ministry offering biblical teaching by means of conferences or classes, selling books that suggest sexuality is fluid, and so on, these activities would be considered fraudulent under this bill. So, even those in the LGBTQ community who are questioning (which the Q stands for) are immobilized from seeking anything that does not affirm in one direction. It is one sided.
Our goal in gathering was to personally deliver a book called Changed to all of the Senators and then to be present on the day of the judiciary committee hearing. This book Changed was put together by the ministry Equipped to Love. Without the help of social media and purely by word of mouth, Ken and Elizabeth had gathered about 40 stories, in about four days. They put together the book in about two weeks. A miracle.
We believe there are so many more stories out there that have been silenced by the threat of persecution. With death threats, hate mail, and verbal assaults that our group experienced in the days before, during, and after this event, it would seem foolish to volunteer your story of change to the world.
All of these stories in the book had one thing in common, these people desired to seek change in their lives regarding their sexuality and found great peace and fulfillment by doing so. These people sought out counseling, therapy, books, life coaches, sermons, etc – all with the shared goal of aligning their personal goals with that of their core values.
The day after we handed out the books and asked many of the Senators and their assistants to please vote no on the bill, we gathered on the steps of the Capitol to tell our stories. For two and half hours, about 30 brave souls poured out their lives in front of hundreds of people and news media cameras. All of us braved the ridicule and embarrassment of baring our souls for all to see. The deep places that once were the greatest source of pain, however, we spoke out because of the transformation we have experienced. What was once an area of shame is now an area that we gladly share about because we have found so much peace, because it goes beyond us. Our sexuality is no longer at the center of who we identify as.
Most of us did not know each other. Even though many of our stories were different they all shared the common theme that seeking counseling, therapy, and resources that supported our personal goals to address sexual desires we did not want to have brought immense freedom from pain and suffering. These resources brought life. Many spoke about being suicidal before finding these resources. This is while they fully embraced their identity as gay, lesbian, trans, etc. Moreover, every one of us that got up there opposing this bill expressed the need to protect EVERYONE’S rights to seek the therapy or counsel that they desired. This was not about denying someone in the LGBTQ community their rights to the therapy they desired that would affirm their sexual orientation. This was about protecting everyone’s rights to seek resolve and to preserve the ability to self identify, their ability to self determine.
The author of the bill, Evan Low, hangs his hat on the notion that research backs up that reparative therapy is harmful. Again, his definition of reparative therapy is SO BROAD that it is impossible to distinguish healthy practices from unhealthy practices. From those who counsel using self-discovery methods that support self-chosen goals in a shame free environment, to ones of the horror stories of counselors using barbaric methods of torment and shock therapy. And if you follow the money and the politics the research presented was truly one sided. Here’s on article that discusses it further. https://world.wng.org/2018/06/follow_the_assembly_line
Being someone who’s life is heavily involved in what people would consider “reparative therapy” by this bill’s definition (I would never call it that), I and none of my peers have personally encountered these methods of therapy or do we know of anyone who has been tormented by these methods. I have been very vocal and warned in my last book about being cautious about any reparative therapy that makes heterosexuality the goal instead of life sanctified to Jesus.
Anyone in their right mind would consider shock therapy, shaming, exposure to pornography, and these other methods they are describing as barbaric and we ourselves would protest heavily if used in our ministries. And to go on the record, no ministry or counseling that addresses sexual orientation that any of us know of promises an individual that they will go from homosexual to heterosexual. That would be ridiculous. What these ministries, such as mine, offer is help in to those questioning using biblical principles that aren’t just reserved for sexuality, but also apply to every other aspect of our lives as Christians. Transformation happens because of love not shame.
At the end of our day in the Capitol we watched as about 40 people lined up to express their support for the AB2943. It took about fifteen minutes of people lining up to state their name, affiliation, and that they supported the bill. Then those, such as myself, lined up to protest the bill. For an hour over 350 people lined up out the door and into the halls of the Capitol to oppose. Two witness were called for both sides of the bill and spoke for two minutes each. For a complete viewing of the hearing click here. http://senate.ca.gov/media/senate-judiciary-committee-20180612/video
As we suspected, the bill passed onto the next steps in becoming law. Even with amendments to the bill and the promise that no books would be banned (including the Bible), the law still reflects otherwise. Promises in a hearing are not what will stand the test of time when people want to file frivolous lawsuits, what is written is what will be enforced. People want to pay their pastors, counselors, and therapists for services. People want to write and sell books, which exercises their religious freedom. Using the excuse that people can have all the freedom they want but can’t charge anything for services or goods is a direct attempt to dry up the financial life blood of such sexual freedom ministries.
I will never forget those two days in Sacramento. Joining arms with many strangers who shared the common goal, of telling society we are not frauds. I’d like to thank all who called, texted, and emailed me during those days. I’d also like to thank Ken and Elizabeth for the opportunity to join them. I am so honored to call you friends.
Lastly, a huge thank you to the support of my friends who do not share my views. Those of you who do not share in my religious beliefs or even my beliefs that change is possible, however, you supported my right to voice my concerns anyways. My fear in joining this event was that my friends in the LGBTQ community and others, who did not share my beliefs, would feel hurt or betrayed by my protests. That was almost an immobilizing fear… that I would cause pain in your lives. However, when I explained my point of view, there was enough relational equity to know that I was simply fighting for my voice to be heard and valued. I love an highly value you all.
If you would like to read more on the subject or the event, here are some links.
Joe Dallas has four video’s on his Facebook page that is a great explanation of the concerns of this bill.
You can watch the video of our stories here.
Let your voice be heard!
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect, and honesty.