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Wanda & Wendy (pseudonyms) visited the church I serve for a few weeks in 2003. It was evident to me that both were in deep emotional pain. They asked to meet with me. Sensing what this might be about, I asked two of our elders to join us.

Both women told incredibly sad stories of abuse, sexual and otherwise, from fathers, ex-husbands and relatives. They asked me to officiate a same-sex wedding for them.

The elders and I carefully and gently explained the gospel. We explained God’s plan for marriage from Matthew 19:4-6. We welcomed them to worship with us at any time. I explained that we often try to get our needs met and our injuries healed in sinful ways and that the path to healing begins with repentance and walking with Jesus.

When I finished, Wanda said, “So, will you perform a ceremony for us?”

“No, I can’t, I’m sorry. It would be wrong.” I said.

“Ok. Well, we’ll be going now.”

I want to say that Wanda and Wendy gave their lives to Jesus that day. But they didn’t. They did have an encounter with gentle, respectful, loving men who were free to share the gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus’ name with them. We planted the seed, and I believe it will yet bear fruit.

I knew then that a day was coming when it might be illegal for me to counsel those women the way we did. In Virginia, that day has come.

The Virginia Values Act became law on July 1. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, the law “poses severe threats to churches, Christian schools, and other religious ministries that operate consistently with their beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. Under the law, they face a choice: abandon their biblical beliefs or face investigations, lawsuits, fines of up to $100,000 per violation, unlimited legal fees, and court orders forcing them to violate their convictions.” 

The law also “prevents religious schools from limiting admittance to those students and families who share their religious beliefs. And ministries that offer sex-specific accommodations — such as an overnight women’s shelter — must allow males who identify as women access to female-only areas.”

Further, the law makes it illegal for any pastor or church to explain our beliefs even on our website. For example, under current Virginia law, my essay, I’M NOT GAY AND YOU PROBABLY AREN’T EITHER, written to help young men with same-sex attraction sort through their confusion and find God’s best path, may now be illegal.

LGBTQ and same-sex marriage advocates argue that we are trying to force our religion on everyone else. So, as an evangelical pastor, I want to make something clear. Bad things have come from the malpractice of Biblical Christianity in this country. Christians mistreated some people with same-sex attraction. The outcry of people in the LGBTQ community made us aware of this. We have had some “come to Jesus moments” about how we treat same-sex oriented people. I am glad that they spoke out, and I apologize for the pain some evangelicals may have caused. Our doors are open to anyone who wants to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But none of that negates the fact that same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s design and bad for civilization. University of Texas Sociologist Mark Regnerus’ landmark study, The New Family Structure Study (NFSS), was praised for its rigorous adherence to the scientific method and its sampling size.

A summary of its key findings:

Compared with offspring from married, intact mother/father homes, children raised in same-sex homes are markedly more likely to:

• Experience poor educational attainment

• Report overall lower levels of happiness, mental and physical health.

• Have impulsive behavior

• Be in counseling or mental health therapy (2xs)

• Suffer from depression (by large margins)

• Have recently thought of suicide (significantly)

• Identify as bisexual, lesbian, or gay

• Have male on male or female on female sex partners (dramatically higher)

• Currently, be in a same-sex romantic relationship (2x to 3x more likely) 

• Be asexual (females with lesbian parents)

• As adults, be unmarried; much more likely to cohabit

• As adults, more likely to be unfaithful in married or cohabiting relationships

• Have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

• Be sexually molested (both inappropriate touching and forced sexual act)

• Feel relationally isolated from bio-mother and -father (Although lesbian-parented children do feel close to their bio-mom – not surprisingly – they are not as close as children with a bio-mom married to father)

• Be unemployed or part-time employed as young adults

• As adults, currently, be on public assistance or sometime in their childhood

• Live in homes with lower income levels

• Drink to get drunk

• To smoke tobacco and marijuana

• Spend more time watching TV

• Have frequency of arrests

• Have pled guilty to minor legal offense

With this law, Governor Northam and his allies are usurping Virginians’ Constitutional rights with earnest talk of equal housing and anti-discrimination. But the governor and the LGBTQ lobby know that isn’t happening. They’ve already won the cultural battle. Now they are seeking to punish people — specifically religious people — who disagree with them. The Virginia Values Act is nothing less than velvet-covered tyranny.

The law is unconstitutional on several levels. ADF, on behalf of Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy and Care Net filed a preemptive suit challenging the law. Hopefully, the court will shoot this down.

But that lawsuit would not be necessary if Virginia’s voters had been paying attention in the 2017 election. Our negligence gave us a one-party rule, and the Virginia Values Acts is one of many bad results. We can expect more of the same if the governor and his friends win the national election.

Skelton is the pastor of Faith Community Church in South Boston