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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 8, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 19
SCOTUS turns down challenge to New Jersey conversion therapy ban
Section One
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SCOTUS turns down challenge to New Jersey conversion therapy ban

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal challenging New Jersey's ban on so-called 'conversion therapy,' the justices said on April 4.

This is the second time the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal against a law banning the practice of trying to 'convert' Lesbian and Gay patients to straight. Last year the court dismissed a similar appeal against Florida's ban.

Conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy, is rejected by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological, and professional counseling organizations. It often involves practices described as 'torture' or 'brainwashing,' including isolation, sleep deprivation, electro-shock treatments, and corporal punishment.

The New Jersey law prohibits use of such techniques on minors. It was passed and signed by Governor Chris Christie in 2013.

The Supreme Court decision not to hear an appeal in the New Jersey case leaves in place a September 2014 ruling by the Third Circuit Court that the ban is constitutional.

Consumer fraud
In a related case in February, a New Jersey judge ruled that representing homosexuality as a disorder in order to market conversion therapies constituted consumer fraud.

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso, Jr. ruled on February 10 that such claims violated the New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act. It is fraudulent to offer 'success statistics,' the judge said, because 'there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics.'

Bariso's ruling came in a consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) against a group calling itself Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH). The suit claims the group used deceptive practices to lure plaintiffs into their Gay-to-straight therapy, charging patients more $10,000 per year.

According to court documents, JONAH's abusive practices included counselors forcing young men to undress and stand naked in a circle with a counselor. They organized group activities in which clients were directed to re-enact past abuse. These violent role-play exercises alienated some clients from their families and taught them to blame family members or themselves for being Gay, the suit charged.

'This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry,' said David Dinielli, SPLC Deputy Legal Director, in a statement.

'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 recognized this.'

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