A US judge has ruled that a “gay cure” group can’t claim that homosexuality is a disorder and it’s fraudulent to do so.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Barsio Jr. ruled earlier this week that misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder in marketing conversion therapy services violates the state’s consumer protection laws.
It’s been described as a “devastating ruling” for the conversion therapy industry, which claims to “convert” people from gay to straight.
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.
The ruling is part of the consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center 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.
“This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director.
“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 recognised this,” he said.
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.”
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world – including The South African Society of Psychiatrists – have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful.
The US states of New Jersey and California and the city of Washington D.C. have banned gay and lesbian youth under the age of 18 from being subjected to conversion therapy. Last month, England’s National Health Service (NHS) told its staff to stop referring patients for this kind of “treatment”.
Homosexuality was declassified as mental disorder by the World Health Organisation in 1990.