A New Jersey judge has ruled that conversion therapy is fraud and homosexuality is not a mental illness or disorder.
In a case that struck what could ultimately be a fatal blow for conversion therapy, a New Jersey judge ruled this week that calling homosexuality a "mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent thereof," or curable, is fraud. The ruling comes after the Southern Poverty Law Center sued JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, for violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act.
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr. on Tuesday ruled, "the general consensus in the mental health field that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, but is instead a normal variation of human sexuality." He also struck out at JONAH for offering "success statistics," the Daily Record reports, because "there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics."
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate offered a look into one of the so-called conversion therapy sessions a JONAH therapist conducted on Chaim Levin, who later became a plaintiff in the successful lawsuit.
Chaim Levin prayed to God to cure his homosexualityâ€”and Alan Downing promised to answer his prayers. Levin, an 18-year-old orthodox Jew and a victim of childhood sexual abuse, believed his attraction to men was a disorder; Downing, a gay conversion "therapist," said he could heal him. At one therapy session, for which Levin's parents paid $100, Downing told Levin to remove a piece of clothing, say something bad about himself, then repeat the process. Levin complied until he was naked. Downing instructed Levin to touch his penis, then his buttocks, while Downing watched. This, Downing said, would help Levin become straight.
David Dinielli, Southern Poverty Law Center's deputy legal director, described the ruling as "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."
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