SALT LAKE CITY -- Therapists who say they can convert gay people into straight people are frauds -- that’s the ruling a judge in New Jersey recently made.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit from four plaintiffs against the New Jersey based organization JONAH, which stands for Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing.
One of the plaintiffs is Michael Ferguson, of Salt Lake City. He got married to his partner in December 2013. It was the first same-sex
marriage in the state of Utah.
However, Ferguson said the wedding may have never happened. Just a decade earlier he attempted to become straight by joining JONAH.
"At the time I thought I was really in a place that being gay was about the most awful thing that you could do or be," Ferguson said.
The judge in his case ruled that advertising therapy that can change you from gay to straight is illegal based on the state of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.
“The judge acknowledged that there is a widespread consensus within the mental health field that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality and is not a mental disease or disorder," said Scott McCoy, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who is representing the plaintiffs.
However, JONAH doesn’t understand how the judge can come to such a decision.
"How do you prove homosexual behavior is not some type of disorder even in a medical context when you look at human anatomy, human design, human procreation,” said Charles LiMandri of JONAH.
Ferguson said not only does JONAH make false claims about conversion, but they create even more pain and self-hatred.
"Some of the practices are absolutely horrifying," Ferguson said. "For example, beating effigies of your mother, they tell you that that bond with your mother is what is causing you to misidentify with femininity and that's what's causing your homosexuality."
JONAH said their therapy does work and in some cases actually saves lives.
"It's a very political agenda driven lawsuit that bears no resemblance as to what actually happened and the harm they are claiming simply doesn't exist at the time, we are bringing witnesses that went through the program with them that say they are very happy," LiMandri said.
This ruling is in just the beginning of the legal process. The trial actually begins on June 1 in New Jersey.