In 1998, John Paulk founded Love Won Out, an ex-gay ministry launched by Focus on the Family and eventually taken over by Exodus International North America. Upon the takeover, Paulk was appointed to their Board of Directors. Exodus International still touts its success in reparative therapy by adopting a "holistic, counselling approach to addressing unwanted same-sex attraction."
Paulk boasted that he successfully overcame his homosexuality through his conversion to Christianity and subsequent involvement with counseling, groups, prayer, and Bible reading. Paulk married his wife Anne, who still identifies herself as ex-gay, and the two of them began touring the country together on behalf of Love Won Out. They appeared together at conferences to prove to the world that reparative therapy could rid people of their homosexuality, a stance the religious right uses to this day against the LGBT community.
Paulk's life of self and public deception began to unravel when he was spotted in a gay bar in Washington DC in 2000. A patron of the bar recognized him and contacted Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, who photographed him coming out of the bar 40 minutes later. After initially denying the allegations, he finally admitted to a momentary lapse and was put on probation by James Dobson and removed from the Board of Directors. Thoroughly embarassed, Exodus put out a press release announcing "John's actions represent a serious lapse in sound judgment. His decision to enter a gay establishment for any reason opens him up to all kinds of speculation by both other Exodus leaders and also the gay community." Paulk eventually resigned and moved with his wife Anne to Portland Oregon where he continued involve himself in the ex-gay movement through at least 2010. His wife still remains heavily involved in the movement to this day.
Truth Wins Out reported today that Paulk has now publicly apologized for the damage and pain he has caused to the LGBT community.
Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted. I have been on a journey during the last few years in trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others. During this journey I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people including people who are close to me. I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of my past, any labels, or what I do.Wayne Besen from Truth wins out responded to his announcement succinctly.
I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated. I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued. I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live. I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships.
It is not enough to simply send an e-mail that says, ‘I’m sorry.’ John Paulk must work to atone for the damage he has done to LGBT families by taking a public role in renouncing and working against the harmful ‘ex-gay’ industry by embarking on a speaking tour to show that he truly has changed. Further, he should advocate for a bill in Oregon that would ban so-called ‘reparative therapy’ for minors. Only then can he start to repair the damage he has done to countless LGBT people and their families.”I couldn't agree more with Mr. Besen. Yes, I am glad to see that Paulk has apologized, but the harm he has caused us is deep and lasting. His words were not "misconstrued." They were intentional and profitable. It is a wonderful thing that he has recognized that he has done serious damage to innocent people. If he is truly sorry, he will do more than apologize and actively involve himself in our struggle for equality and dignity he not so long ago worked diligently against.