01/29/2014

Appeals court ruling in California is another sign of conversion therapy industry's collapse

A ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upholds California’s ban on conversion therapy for minors, a discredited practice that claims to “cure” people of being gay, is another sign of the collapse of the conversion therapy industry, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The court reaffirmed its earlier decision upholding the ban Wednesday. The ruling means that the only recourse for the therapists challenging the law is the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“We are thrilled that the federal appeals court has, for the second time, confirmed that states can protect kids from the harmful practices used in so-called ‘conversion therapy,’” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “Science proves that it doesn’t work. It harms kids, and it tears families apart.”

In 2012, the SPLC filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit on behalf of four young men who claim they were defrauded by Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a New Jersey organization that offers conversion therapy services.

In therapy sessions, the men were instructed, among other things, to stand naked in a circle with other patients and a naked counselor; to cuddle with members of the same sex, including other patients and counselors; to violently beat effigies of their mothers with a tennis racket; to go to gyms and bathhouses in order to be nude with father figures; and to participate in mock locker room and gym class scenarios where they were subjected to ridicule as “faggots” and “homos.”

Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. In addition, the American Psychological Association has expressed concern that conversion therapy practices “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

“With our lawsuit against JONAH and the collapse of Exodus International and other conversion therapy organizations, it is clear this industry is crumbling,” Dinielli said. “Also, states across the country are taking steps to ban these harmful practices marketed to unsuspecting kids and their families. Soon, conversion therapy and its practitioners will be relegated to the dustbin of history.”  

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s ban on conversion therapy for patients under the age of 18 in 2012. Conversion therapy services have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.