SPLC makes history in New Jersey courtroom June 3, 2015

by Richard Cohen: President, Southern Poverty Law Center

As you may have seen in The Atlantic, were making history today in a New Jersey courtroom.

We presented opening arguments to a jury in our case challenging conversion therapy as fraudulent. Its the first case of its kind anywhere.

Practitioners claim their techniques can cure LGBT people of their same-sex attraction. Its a complete sham, of course and based on the lie that LGBT people are mentally ill and need to be cured.

Were representing three young men who paid thousands of dollars to a group called JONAH (client Benjamin Unger pictured above). Like many other young people, they ended up psychologically scarred and alienated from their families.

Heres a sample of what our clients were instructed to do:

  • beat an effigy of their mother with a tennis racket;

  • stand naked in a group of other men, including an older counselor who was also nude;

  • and subject themselves to anti-gay slurs during mock locker room exercises.

This kind of therapy has been discredited by all major psychological and medical associations.

And theres another problem: As the American Psychological Association has noted, conversion therapy promotes a climate of bigotry and discrimination against LGBT people the group most likely to be victimized by hate crime.

The judge has already issued several rulings that bolster our case.

He excluded key defense witnesses because their opinion that homosexuality is a disorder, he wrote, is like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves it.

Were on the cusp of a sea change in our countrys acceptance of LGBT people. And our work is making a difference.


Arresting African American students at a high rate happens in Jefferson Parish, and it happens across the country. It’s time to stop criminalizing our future based on skin tone and broken school rules that would normally give a kid a Saturday detention:

Back to top
Back to Front Page

Last edited by patricia obletz. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on June 05, 2015

Legal Information |  Designed and built by Emergency Digital. | Hosted by Steadfast Networks