New Jersey

N.J. judge: Gay conversion therapy group can’t claim homosexuality is a disorder

Protesters demonstrate outside a gathering for the National Association For Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) in Phoenix, Ariz., in 2013. Staff Reports

Protesters demonstrate outside a gathering for the  National Association For Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) in Phoenix, Ariz., in 2013.

Protesters demonstrate outside a gathering for the National Association For Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) in Phoenix, Ariz., in 2013.

TRENTON, N.J. — A judge in New Jersey has ruled that claims by a gay conversion therapy group that describe homosexuality as a curable mental disorder are fraud.

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr. ruled Tuesday against the Jersey City-based Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a New Jersey-based conversion therapy provider. He said JONAH’s claims are illegal based on the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.

JONAH attorney Charles LiMandri says the use of the word “disorder” was done based on Jewish law and not to describe homosexuality as a psychological disorder. He says JONAH expects to win when the case goes to trial in June.

The ruling is part of the consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against JONAH, on behalf of four men and two of their mothers, alleging their methods don’t work

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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.

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.

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. Two associations and therapists have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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