NJ judge to "ex-gay" programs: Being LGBT is not a disorder

Today, a New Jersey judge ruled that so-called "ex-gay" programs can't represent that being LGBT is a disorder in marketing materials. This is a part of a lawsuit that "ex-gay" survivors and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have against the Jewish "ex-gay" program, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH).

According to the SPLC web site:

The ruling marks the first time a court in the United States has found that homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder and that it is fraudulent for conversion therapists to make such a claim. Superior Court Judge Peter F. Barsio Jr. found that it “is a misrepresentation in violation of [New Jersey’s 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, disorder, or equivalent thereof.”

The ruling is part of the consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the SPLC against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a New Jersey-based conversion therapy provider. The suit claims the group used deceptive practices to lure plaintiffs into their costly services for gay-to-straight therapy that can cost in excess of $10,000 a year.

The judge also ruled that JONAH is in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act if it offers specific success statistics for its services when “client outcomes are not tracked and no records of client outcomes are maintained” because “there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics.” Evidence at the upcoming trial this summer will show that JONAH has misrepresented that their conversion therapy works based on bogus statistics.

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.

This is a significant step forward for the legal case against harmful and dangerous "ex-gay" programs, and a big win for survivors like plaintiffs Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin.