A New Jersey judge this week ruled that anyone who provides gay-to-straight conversion therapy is committing consumer fraud if they describe homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The judge’s decision follows a lawsuit that was filed by four men and two parents against an organzation called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH). The lawsuit reportedly accuses the organization of committing consumer fraud.
“This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry," David Dinielli, deputy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said. “For the first time, a court has ruled that it is fraudulent as a matter of law for conversion therapists to tell clients that they have a mental disorder that can be cured. This is the principal lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients.”
Judge Peter F. Bariso announced his ruling in court on Tuesday.
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“It is a misrepresentation in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, in advertising or selling conversion therapy services to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease (or) disorder,” Bariso said. The ruling also dictates that conversion therapists were prohibited from advertising success rates because there was “no factual basis for calculating these statistics."
Charles LiMandri, chief counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which is representing JONAH in the lawsuit, said that the organzation was “only trying to help people.”
“This is not a situation in which people are forced into something they don't want to do," LiMandri said. "They are trying to deprive plaintiffs of freedom of choice. Americans want people to have the right to free self determination. I believe when the jury hears all the facts they will ultimately decide in favor of our clients."
The case will go to trial this summer, and alleges other conversion therapists of similar acts of fraud.
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“We also have alleged multiple additional violations of the Consumer Fraud Act -- including that JONAH's program taken as a whole is an unconscionable business practice,” Dinielli said. “We will go to trial to prove those additional violations and to obtain damages for our clients as well as an order preventing JONAH from continuing to offer its fraudulent program to the public."
According to NJ.com, this is the second case in less than a week in which Judge Bariso ruled in favor of the six plantiffs. Last Thursday, Bariso blocked the defendants from, “calling several of the controversial treatment's proponents as witnesses because they had planned to offer scientifically refuted testimony that homosexuality is an illness.”
“The overwhelming weight of scientific authority concludes that homosexuality is not a disorder or abnormal,” Bariso stated in that ruling.