A New Jersey judge has ruled misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder in marketing conversion therapy services is consumer fraud.
The ruling marks the first time a US court has found that homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder and that it is fraudulent for conversion therapists to make such a claim.
Hudson County superior court judge Peter Bariso Jr said Tuesday (10 February) such claims violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.
He added that it was fraudulent to offer ‘success statistics’ because ‘there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics.’
The ruling is part of the consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH). The suit claims the group used deceptive practices to lure plaintiffs into their gay-to-straight therapy that can cost in excess of $10,000 a year.
‘This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry,’ said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director, in a statement.
‘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.’
Conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy, is rejected by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.
The suit claims JONAH’s abusive practices included counselors instructing young men to undress and stand naked in a circle with a counselor. They organized group activities in which clients were directed to re-enact past abuse. These violent role-play exercises and ‘therapy’ techniques alienated some clients from their families and taught them to blame family members or themselves for being gay.
Last week, the judge ruled that Jonah could not call on proponents to testify that homosexuality is an illness.