Two Pulse survivors held an ‘ex-gay’ rally a mile and a half from site of mass shooting

Two survivors of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub held an ‘ex-gay’ rally just minutes away from the site of the deadliest violence against LGBT+ people in US history.

A total of 49 people were killed and 53 were injured at the gay nightclub in 2016. Among the survivors were Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz, who claim the massacre inspired them to renounce their homosexuality and return to religion.

The self-described “overcomers of homosexuality” have now founded an organisation to help other ‘ex-gays’, and promoted their message at a ‘Freedom March’ on September 14, less than two miles from the site of the shooting.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the event attracted more than 100 people.

Speaking at the march, Ruiz told parents they should pray for their gay children “not to come back to them, but for us to come back to Jesus”.

He was keen to distance himself from conversion therapy – a widely discredited practise which claims to change a person’s sexuality – likely because the state is currently considering a ban on it.

“I want to make a public declaration: this is not conversion therapy, this is not electrotherapy, this is not shock therapy,” he said.

“This is all the Holy Spirit, this is the man that died on the cross.

“This man never cheated on me, never slept with my best friend. He’s the man on the cross.”

The march was organised alongside local anti-LGBT+ group Florida Family Policy Council. It featured a Christian band and religious speakers, some of whom claiming to have successfully overcome the LGBT+ “lifestyle”.

One of the speakers said God “set [him] free from same-sex attraction” after he found religion in college.

“After God dealt with my heart, he began to pour his love into me, and all I ever wanted was love,” Johnson said to the crowd.

He spoke of being sexually assaulted as a child and bullied at school for appearing more feminine than other boys. “I was looking for attention, affirmation, acceptance, and in the homosexual community, it’s more about sex.”

People mourn the 49 killed at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, in 2016 (Joe Raedle/Getty)

The event was condemned by Orlando’s LGBT+ community, who are still in mourning the terrible massacre at Pulse nightclub.

Christopher Cuevas of QLatinx, an Orlando-based Latino LGBTQ advocacy group, called the march “an attempt to wash the community in a thicket of hate and bigotry”.

In an email to NBC News, he wrote: “While we honour the freedom for expressions of faith, and hold the beauty of religiosity in our community, we cannot condone the gross misuse of religious text and faith to exploit LGBTQ+ people or support conversion therapy.”