New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. ruled today (Tuesday, Feb. 10), that marketing so-called “conversion therapy” by misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder violates New Jersey’s consumer protection laws.
Bariso issued the ruling in the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of former clients against against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a New Jersey-based organization that purports to convert gays and lesbians to heterosexuality.
According to an SPLC press release, Bariso’s 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. SPLC also says that as the trial progresses, they will present evidence to establish that JONAH repeatedly made such misrepresentations.
The lawsuit 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.
David Dinielle, SPLC’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.”
SPLC co-counsel James L. Bromley, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, added, “The harmful myth that gay people are sick or damaged belongs in the dustbin of history.”
Bariso 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.”
Last week, the judge ordered that several prominent conversion therapy proponants, including National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) founder Joseph Nicolosi, could not testify as defense experts in the upcoming trial, scheduled for this summer.