John M. Becker

NJ Judge Spanks 'Ex-Gays' for Mental Disorder Claim

Filed By John M. Becker | February 11, 2015 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: conversion therapy, ex-gay myth, ex-gay therapy, JONAH, lawsuit, New Jersey, reparative therapy, SPLC

unger-levin-splc.jpgA New Jersey judge has delivered a devastating blow to proponents of dangerous "ex-gay" quackery, issuing a preliminary ruling that the conversion therapy group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) is in violation of the state's Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) for misrepresenting homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Zack Ford reports over at ThinkProgress:

Judge Peter F. Bariso, Jr. issued a partial summary judgment against JONAH on two specific claims it had made when marketing its treatment. First, it is a violation of the CFA to market services that describe homosexuality as a "mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent thereof." The court, he wrote, "now takes judicial notice of the general consensus in the mental health field that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, but is instead a normal variation of human sexuality," and it would be a misrepresentation to suggest otherwise.

Bariso also found that JONAH was in vioaltion of the CFA when it claimed to have statistics demonstrating success rates for its ex-gay therapy. The plaintiffs, two former clients and three parents of clients, argued that there was "no factual basis for calculating" the statistics JONAH cites in its marketing. The court agreed, because JONAH does not actually track its own clients' outcomes, instead citing other statistics for ex-gay therapy in general.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the consumer fraud suit on behalf of four former JONAH clients and two of their parents, hailed Judge Bariso's ruling -- the first time a U.S. court has found that it is fraudulent for conversion therapists to claim that homosexuality is a mental disorder. David Dinielli, the group's deputy legal director, said:

"This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry. 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. Gay people don't need to be cured, and we are thrilled that the court has recognized this."

Ford notes that the case is still ongoing, but yesterday's ruling by Judge Bariso "seems to guarantee at least a partial victory" for opponents of dangerous, abusive "ex-gay" therapy.

Photo of plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin via the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.