Depending on how closely you follow the news, you may have heard a bit about one of this country’s most unusual cottage industries: A series of independent practitioners offering a service called “reparative” or, more colloquially, “gay cure” therapy. The niche discipline is popular enough to earn an official ban from the State of California (when applied to subjects under the age of 18).
These “medical” professionals claim to be able to relieve individuals suffering from unwanted bouts of homosexuality; they’ve received a bit of attention from the political press over the past few years, and they’re about to face the biggest PR challenge in the history of their (relatively new) practice.
The most interesting part about this case is that it concerns the Orthodox Jewish community, most of whose members believe homosexuality to be forbidden by the Torah. Four young men whose rabbis urged them to seek reparative therapy with a group called JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) are now suing the organization for fraud with the backing of the Southern Poverty and Law Center, a non-profit known for defending those with contradictory opinions both popular and unpopular.
The defendants’ lawsuit states that the group, whose director believes that “homosexuality is a learned behavior, which can be unlearned”, falsely advertised its services—and some of the practices involved in the JONAH “solution” are unconventional, to say the least.
One thing is clear: the immediate future presents a series of uphill battles for gay cure therapists.
Last year prominent psychiatrist Robert L. Spitzer apologized for supporting the practice, calling it ““a serious threat to the health and well-being — even the lives — of affected people.”
Still, we have a feeling the movement will remain popular within certain circles—it earned its largest PR boost during the 2012 election season, when reporters investigated Marcus Bachmann, husband of presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann, for offering to cure gay patients within his “Christian counseling clinic.”
What effect will this case have on the future of the LGBT rights movement—particularly within the Orthodox community? Will “reparative therapist” find a way to re-brand their practice? We suggest they come up with a new, even less revealing name for what they do.