'Conversion therapy' lawsuit filed

Nov. 27, 2012 at 4:35 PM
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TRENTON, N.J., Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Four gay men are suing practitioners of "conversion therapy," a controversial treatment aimed at changing sexual orientation from gay to straight.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Superior Court of New Jersey by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of plaintiffs Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Chaim Levin and Sheldon Bruck against JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, a New Jersey organization.

Ferguson, 23, a Salt Lake City resident, was also represented by attorney Scott McCoy, Utah's first openly gay state senator, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.

The other plaintiffs are from New York City.

The men are suing under New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act, which protects from deceptive, false or fraudulent business practices, and claim the therapy, which could cost up to $10,000 annually, caused depression and other harm after their sexual orientation was not changed, the newspaper said.

Levin said he suspected something wrong when a therapist ordered him to remove his clothes and hold his penis while standing before a mirror, adding, "I really wanted to believe I could change. Then they blamed me."

Sam Wolfe, attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said conversion therapy is based on the discredited belief being gay is a mental disorder.

"We want to dispel the myths that these people hold any answers. Sexual orientation does not need repair. We'll hold them accountable for their lies and abuse to our clients," Wolfe said.

In addition to JONAH, the suit names Arthur Goldberg and Alan Downing Life Coaching.

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