Jury in New Jersey says ‘gay conversion’ therapy was a fraud

David Dinielli delivers the opening statements for the plaintiff in a fraud trial against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, (JONAH) Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Jersey City, N.J.

David Dinielli delivers the opening statements for the plaintiff in a fraud trial against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, (JONAH) Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Jersey City, N.J. Alex Remnick, The Star-Ledger via AP (Pool)

David Dinielli delivers the opening statements for the plaintiff in a fraud trial against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, (JONAH) Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Jersey City, N.J. Alex Remnick, The Star-Ledger via AP (Pool)

David Dinielli delivers the opening statements for the plaintiff in a fraud trial against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, (JONAH) Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Jersey City, N.J.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — A nonprofit organization that claimed it could turn gay men straight violated New Jersey‘s Consumer Fraud Act, a jury concluded Thursday in a civil trial that an attorney for the plaintiffs called “a momentous event” for LGBT rights.

The jury said that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, co-founder Arthur Goldberg and counselor Alan Downing made misrepresentations and engaged in unconscionable business practices.

Three men and two parents were awarded about $72,000 in damages. The judge will rule later on their request to revoke the company’s license, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

“This is a momentous event in the history of LGBT rights,” attorney David Dinielli said. “The same lies that motivate gay conversion therapy motivate homophobia – that gay people are broken and need to be fixed. The strength of our plaintiffs brought that to light.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued during the trial that the group, known by the acronym JONAH, claimed a success rate that wasn’t backed up by actual statistics and used therapy methods that had no scientific basis, including having one client beat a pillow, meant to represent his mother, with a tennis racket.

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In an emailed statement, defense attorney Charles LiMandri called the verdict “a sad day, not just for my clients, but for America.”

“All of us can control our sexual behavior and each of us has not only the right but the obligation to decide what is right and wrong about our behavior,” the statement added.

LiMandri said he would “seek justice on appeal.”

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