News (USA)

Plaintiff in lawsuit against ‘gay conversion’ practitioners describes therapy methods

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)

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Attorney Charles LiMandri, representing JONAH, said none of the four men asked for their money back at the time.

“All four of these men left JONAH on good terms, speaking glowingly” of their experience and referring it to friends, he said. It was only after being contacted by activists that they denounced the organization, he said.

“The plaintiffs became aggressors after they left JONAH to destroy JONAH,” LiMandri said.

Cross-examining Unger, LiMandri displayed emails Unger had sent at the time of the therapy in which he sounded pleased with his progress. His questioning sought to show jurors that Unger had willingly sought out the treatment but discontinued it after 10 months – well before the two years to four years JONAH suggested it would take for conversion.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday.

The lawsuit is the latest court battle in New Jersey regarding conversion therapy, a practice that has come under fire from gay rights groups, which are trying to ban it in more than a dozen states.

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Lawyers for JONAH have argued that debate continues among scientists about whether sexual orientation is fixed or changeable and whether conversion therapy is harmful. They charge that plaintiffs are seeking to “shut down the debate by making one viewpoint on the issue literally illegal.”

Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2013 banning licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy in New Jersey. Two court challenges to the ban, one by a couple and their son and one by a group that included two licensed therapists, were dismissed by a federal judge. Those decisions were later affirmed by a federal appeals court.

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