Now that the Supreme Court has approved gay marriage nationwide, there may be less demand for gay-to-straight conversion therapies, which could be a boon for consumers who say they’ve thrown their money away trying to transform their sexual preferences or those of their family members.
Just yesterday in New Jersey, a jury needed only a few hours to find that JONAH -- Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing -- made gross misrepresentations in advertising its program and awarded damages of $72,000. Three gay men and their parents had filed suit against JONAH, basically claiming it had committed consumer fraud.
“My clients needed help,” said James Bromley, a lawyer from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represented the plaintiffs. “They went to JONAH. JONAH lied, and JONAH made it worse,” Religion News Service reported.
Not a mental illness
The defense argued that JONAH’s ideology and methods were both scientific and based on Jewish values. But that argument was undermined by a February ruling in which, Judge Peter Bariso held that it was a violation of the consumer fraud act to call homosexuality a mental illness or disorder -- thought to be the first such ruling in the country.
JONAH’s program included weekend retreats called “journey into manhood” weekends which allegedly included standing naked in front of a mirror while touching one’s genitals. JONAH insists its program works and says it will appeal the jury’s verdict.
Several states already prohibit licensed therapists from providing “conversion therapy” to minors and a bill pending in Congress would classify commercial conversion therapy and advertising that claims to change sexual orientation and gender identity as fraud.