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President’s support for conversion therapy ban is huge step forward

In a court ruling obtained by the SPLC – and cited by the White House – a New Jersey judge ruled it was consumer fraud to misrepresent homosexuality as a disorder while marketing conversion therapy.

President Obama’s public support for a nationwide ban against the harmful practice of conversion therapy is an important step toward achieving equality for all LGBT youth and protecting them from the psychological abuse of being told they can and should change their sexual orientation.

These bogus and dangerous conversion therapy services have no basis in science and are based on the lie that there is something wrong with LGBT people – that they’re sick and can be “cured” or “repaired.” The practice, in fact, has been thoroughly discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

Not only does conversion therapy cause devastating harm to young people, as the American Psychological Association has noted, it promotes a climate of bigotry and discrimination against the LGBT community.

Therapists who claim to be able to change sexual orientation also are defrauding their customers as they prey on the vulnerability of youth and their families. We’re currently suing a New Jersey provider, called JONAH, under that state’s consumer fraud statute. Its services can cost more than $10,000 each year.

In February, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. ruled that misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder while marketing conversion therapy services is a violation of state law. This ruling marked the first time a U.S. court has found that it’s fraudulent as a matter of law for conversion therapists to tell clients they have a mental disorder that can be cured.

In a separate order, Bariso wrote that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.

There’s also nothing novel about banning practices based on the harm they cause. It’s time for our political leaders to catch up with the science and to ban this harmful, fraudulent practice.

Sam Wolfe is an SPLC staff attorney who works on LGBT equality issues.