A New Jersey judge has ruled that calling homosexuality a disease in the marketing of “gay conversion” therapy is fraudulent.
The judgment came as a lawsuit against the Jersey City-based group JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, heads to a jury.
“Our case is shining the light on the lies that conversion therapists peddle,” said David Dinielli, a deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the lawsuit. “We’re hoping that others will take note and they’ll recognize that these promises of cure have no basis and ought to be avoided.”
In the suit, four young men allege they suffered through sessions that included beating effigies of their mothers with a tennis racket in vain attempts to reclaim their masculinity and rid themselves of same-sex attraction. One client, Dinielli said, was forced to run through a chain of men and grab oranges, which represented testicles.
“He was then told he had to squash them and rub himself with the juice,” Dinielli said.
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso also ruled that conversion therapists cannot use vague statistics on cure rates without documentation without violating the Consumer Fraud Act. Last week, he decided to exclude testimony from defense experts who planned to say that homosexuality is an illness.
Defense attorney Charles LiMandri noted that JONAH is only a referral service, and does not accept payment for treatment.
“Suing this organization for consumer fraud, when they have no incentive to induce anybody, I don’t think is going to resonate well with the jury,” he said.
LiMandri said he plans to have multiple witnesses testify that gay-to-straight conversion therapy has worked for them.
New Jersey is one of the few states that has banned licensed mental health professionals from trying to convert gay minors to heterosexuals.