A judge in New Jersey has ruled that claims of gay conversion therapy that describe homosexuality as a curable mental disorder are fraud.
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr. ruled Tuesday in the case involving the Jersey City-based Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) and said that those claims are illegal based on the state's Consumer Fraud Act. Bariso also said it's fraudulent to offer "success statistics" because "there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics."
"This is the principal lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients," David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said of homosexuality being described as a mental disorder. "Gay people don't need to be cured, and we are thrilled that the court has recognized this."
JONAH attorney Charles LiMandri said the group's use of the word "disorder" was based on their interpretation of Jewish law and not intended to describe homosexuality as a psychological disorder. He said JONAH expects to win when the case goes to trial in June.
"They're not your typical target of consumer fraud act defendants who are making misrepresentations of people," LiMandri said. "They're just trying to help people who are in distress get help if they want it. If they don't want it, that's fine."
The law center sued JONAH on behalf of four men and two of their mothers, who alleged their methods don't work. The four men said they went through the therapy and were forced to do activities including being made to strip naked while standing in a circle with other boys, and be naked with their fathers at bathhouses.
LiMandri said that the men didn't complete the program.
Bariso also ruled last week that JONAH could not call proponents who planned to offer testimony that homosexuality is an illness.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a ban preventing licensed therapists from performing gay conversion therapy for patients under 18 in 2013. An appeal by two associations and therapists challenging the ban to the U.S. Supreme Court is pending.Being made to strip naked with other boys? Throw me into that brier patch!
I joke, but this is a serious issue. Conversion therapy is humiliating, harmful, and has zero chance for success. Perhaps the hardest part of the coming out process is coming out to yourself. The denial and self-hate these methodologies thrive upon is incredibly destructive. Observe.
Christian Schizzel, who spent seven years as the poster boy for the young generation of 'ex-gays', has said he was manipulated and 'molded' by his religious peers.
But now he is out, repenting his past and apologizing if he has influenced anyone to believe that it is possible to 'cure' your sexuality.
Speaking to Religious News Service, he said: 'There was a psychological "breaking-me-down" and isolation process from my friends and family because they were considered unhealthy.
'They did this to achieve complete domination over me to build me up and mold me from there. I had to do activities that were stereotypically manly and I couldn't have too many female friends that would encourage me to be effeminate.
'I was kept from attending the funeral of the mother of one of my closest friend because, they said, the devil was using this funeral to lure me back out to become reacquainted with non-believers.
He continued: 'I didn't talk to my mom for almost a year and a half. I was told it was my family's fault I was gay because of how I was raised. They demonized my entire support system until I had no one to turn to except them.
'After roughly two years of the break down I was finally on the same page as them and I began conforming to their wishes all on my own. Being young and impressionable, I was unknowingly being groomed as the next leader of the next generation of ex-gays. All I was seeking was acceptance.'
Schizzel says the most 'offensive' thing was the Christian religious leaders told him he was gay because he was sexually abused when he was young.'They grasped at straws for a "cause" of my homosexuality and they used my sexual abuse against me,' he said.
'Now that I am coming out this second time I have to finally deal with my sexual abuse almost as if for the first time, understanding it didn't cause my orientation.'
When asked if he had a message, Schizzel said: 'To those who still promote reparative therapy or hope it could work for them or a family member, I hope they realize this path leads to a horrid dead end. It’s harmful and excruciatingly painful."I can tell you all I know, the where to go, the what to do. You can try to run but you can't hide from what's inside of you."