US Court rules gay ‘cure’ therapy committed ‘consumer fraud’
A gay ‘cure’ group in the US state of New Jersey broke the state’s consumer fraud protection law by claiming to be able to change the sexuality of clients, a court has heard.
The group, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), was ordered to pay $72,400 (£46,000) in damages to former clients.
The jury of seven men and women took three hours to reach the landmark verdict in the case brought by three former clients, and two mothers of ex-clients.
According to the plaintiffs in the case, they suffered psychological damage as a result of the practices of JONAH, as well as being let out of pocket.
The case was the first to use consumer protection laws to challenge the widely condemned practice.
Benjamin Unger, one of the former clients of JONAH, said in a statement after the ruling: “I am so grateful that the jury has decided conversion therapy organisations do not have the right to lie to and deceive people. It is a victory not just for me but for other victims of this harmful therapy.”
Unger said he had been told that the practices of JONAH were scientific, and had been successful in “curing” the sexuality of hundreds of gay clients.
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Earlier this month, Unger told the jury he received a bizarre array of “treatments” including being told to beat a pillow, imagining it was his mother.
He also said how one of the counsellors at JONAH, Alan Dowling, made an analogy about “non-sexual erections” which made “no sense” to him.
“He compared it to when your nephew sits on your lap and you get an erection,” he said to gasps from the gallery.
The four plaintiffs said “treatment” included being told to spend more time naked with their dads, and being subjected to anti-gay slurs in a locker room style setting.
JONAH refuted claims that the men were damaged by their experiences at the facility. “They’re making things up,” defence counsel Charles LiMandri said during the trial.