For the first time, a U.S. court has held that homosexuality is not a mental disease.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. ruled on Tuesday that therapists who claim that homosexuality is a curable mental disorder are committing consumer fraud in “an ongoing lawsuit filed on behalf of four men who say they were subjected to humiliating treatments by therapists affiliated with Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a gay conversion therapy referral service based in Jersey City,” according to a report by Mother Jones.
Bariso handed down his ruling as part of an “Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.” In that ruling, Bariso wrote, in part:
It is a misrepresentation in violation of CFA [Consumer Fairness Act], in advertising or selling conversion therapy services, to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as a mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent therof. [emphasis added]
He further held that:
It is a misrepresentation in violation of CFA, in advertising or selling conversion therapy services, to include “success” statistics when there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics, e.g., when client outcomes are not tracked and no records of client outcomes are maintained.
In a separate ruling excluding key conversion therapy supporters Christopher Doyle, James Phelan and John Diggs, Bariso held that their “expertise” would not be permitted at trial because it is unscientific and rests on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder.
The theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel—but like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it—instead is outdated and refuted. The overwhelming weight of scientific authority concludes that homosexuality is not a disorder or abnormal. The universal acceptance of that conclusions—save for outliers such as JONAH—requires that any expert opinions to the contrary must be barred. [emphasis added]
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit for the plaintiffs and David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the center say this ruling marks the first time a U.S. court has found that homosexuality is not a mental disease.
According to Dinielli,
This ruling makes clear that when conversion therapists lie about the nature of homosexuality in order to lure these vulnerable clients into their services and their programs, they’re committing fraud.
Dinielli reported for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that
This ruling is monumental and devastating to the conversion therapy industry. 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. [emphasis added]
SPLC co-counsel James L. Bromley, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, stated that
The judge’s determination today that it is a misrepresentation to tell consumers that homosexuality is a disorder is an important step forward in this case and also a victory for showing that conversion therapy proponents lack any valid basis to continue to promote their abusive practices. The harmful myth that gay people are sick or damaged belongs in the dustbin of history. [emphasis added]
Conversion therapy has been rejected by major health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, which scrapped homosexuality from the list of disorders in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. The APA warns that the potential risks of conversion therapy include depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. Late last year, a transgender teenager in Ohio committed suicide after participating in conversion therapy, sparking a campaign for a federal ban on the practice. New Jersey, California, and Washington, DC, have laws banning licensed conversion therapists from working with minors.