The verdict came in a case brought against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing in 2012 on behalf of four men who underwent “conversion therapy.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the lawsuit, argued JONAH violated New Jersey’s consumer fraud law with its claims that gay men could become straight. The Associated Press reported jury awarded the remaining three plaintiffs and two parents $72,000.
“This verdict is a monumental moment in the movement to ensure the rights and acceptance of LGBT people in America,” said Southern Poverty Law Center Deputy Legal Director David Dinielli, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “Conversion therapy and homophobia are based on the same central lie — that gay people are broken and need to be fixed. Conversion therapists, including the defendants in this case, sell fake cures that don’t work and can seriously harm the unsuspecting people who fall into this trap.”
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a group that opposes “conversion therapy,” described the verdict as a “landmark defeat for conversion therapists.”
“The verdict shows that there are consequences for a practice that is consumer fraud and harms clients,” he said. “We hope the results of this case will lead to a chilling effect on this destructive industry and serve as a warning to those who might be seduced into the believing the falsehood that conversion therapy works.”
Superior Court Judge Peter F. Barsio, Jr., who heard the case, in February ruled claims that homosexuality is a disorder as part of efforts to market “conversion therapy” constitute fraud under New Jersey law.
President Obama on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to the controversial practice during his speech at the White House Pride reception.
“Sounds like the jury reached a conclusion consistent with the president’s views on this topic,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the Washington Blade on Thursday during his daily briefing.
JONAH did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment.
New Jersey, California and D.C. ban “conversion therapy” to minors.
Lawmakers in Virginia, Illinois, New York and other states over the last year have also debated bills that seek to prohibit the controversial practice. California Congressman Ted Lieu in May introduced a measure to ban “conversion therapy” throughout the country.
The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the Pan American Health Organization are among the organizations that publicly oppose “conversion therapy.”
Chris Johnson contributed to this article.