POSTED FEB 11, 2015 02:10 PM CST
A New Jersey lawsuit against a group that referred individuals to therapists who claimed to be able to help clients change their sexual orientation won’t be tried before this summer.
But a Tuesday ruling by the judge overseeing the case is being hailed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which brought the suit, as a significant milestone. For the first time, they say, a court has found that therapists who make such claims are committing consumer fraud, reports the New Jersey Advance.
“It is a misrepresentation in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, in advertising or selling conversion therapy services to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease (or) disorder,” wrote Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr.
He also found there is no factual basis for advertising a claimed success rate for such therapy and, in another ruling last week, barred testimony by defense witnesses who planned to describe homosexuality as an illness.
Charles LiMandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund is representing the defendant, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing.
He said he expects JONAH to prevail at trial because the group did not advertise success rates and did not, “in a scientific sense,” claim that being homosexual is a disorder, the Advancereports.
“This is not a situation in which people are forced into something they don’t want to do,” LiMandri said, contending that the plaintiffs in the suit are trying to prevent others from the right to make choices for themselves.
“Americans want people to have the right to free self-determination,” he said. “I believe when the jury hears all the facts, they will ultimately decide in favor of our clients.”