Quoting former chair Maggie Gallagher nearly verbatim, the National Organization for Marriage came to the defense of ex-gay therapy in its weekly newsletter Friday. Citing a case in which the Southern Poverty Law Center is suing Jewish ex-gay group JONAH for consumer fraud — promising results that were impossible — NOM’s Brian Brown insisted that the right to therapy for “unwanted same-sex attraction” is a matter of religious liberty:
On Friday my friend and hero Chuck LiMandri (who was one of the first to help us get Prop 8 on the ballot!) will be in court in New Jersey, taking on the goliath Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its new militant attempt to misuse consumer fraud laws to attack a small Jewish nonprofit named JONAH that helps observant Jews with same-sex attraction live according to the Bible’s laws.
This is one of the hugest stories you’ve never been told by the media: the SPLC wants to use its $250 million budget and 7 full-time staff lawyers to bankrupt therapists, counselors, and religious nonprofits that offer help to people with unwanted same-sex attraction. And they are misusing “consumer fraud” statutes to do it.
I suspect SPLC picked a Jewish service organization first because they were hoping many of us in the Christian community would ignore it. But whatever you think about sexual orientation, it’s wrong to tell people they can’t ask for help to live their sexual lives as they choose, not as the SPLC’s lawyers want them to do.
Sexual orientation is not just a matter of opinion; it’s factually wrong is to assert that it’s just a behavior and it’s harmful to insist that it be denied or repressed. Professional counseling groups condemn ex-gay therapy as ineffective and over 90 percent of those who have endured it report that it was harmful. Any sexual orientation is a natural expression of human sexuality, as psychologists have understood for over 35 years.
LiMandri himself admits that JONAH believes “homosexuality is disordered,” but attempts to qualify that by saying the group doesn’t believe it’s a mental disease or defect, just a “sinful behavior.” Such a religious belief does not entitle medical practitioners to provide a harmful treatment, be it leeches, blood-letting, or ex-gay therapy — let alone promise an impossible result,. In contrast, the plaintiffs in this case very much have a right to challenge the traumatizing shame and humiliation they were regularly subjected to by JONAH, none of which has any foundation of professional counseling.
Since making her similar comments this week, Gallagher now claims that she doesn’t really know what “conversion therapy” is, nor does she support it, but she still supports “the right of gay people to seek the kind of counseling help they want.” In other words, she doesn’t want to be attached to ex-gay therapy, but she’s not troubled at all if people with internalized homophobia can be convinced to sacrifice time, money, and mental health pursuing such self-stigmatization. With this rhetoric, Gallagher, Brown, NOM, and their other allies opposed to marriage equality prove that theirs is a campaign not just about the definition of marriage, but against the very existence of gay people.