reparative therapyThe California law banning harmful “reparative” therapy for minors will be litigated in federal appeals court tomorrow, due to lawsuits brought by anti-gay hate groups:

The law, adopted last year and the first of its kind as part of an unusual effort to regulate a form of talk therapy, bars licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation of people under the age of 18.

Hailed by gay rights groups as a landmark, the law was based on the conclusions of mainstream professional associations that such efforts have never been proved to work and that the therapy can harm young patients.

But several therapists, along with patients who say they were helped by the treatment, challenged the law in two lawsuits, asserting that it violates the First Amendment and other basic rights.

Professions have standards. Unscientific “reparative” therapy runs counter to the standards of the counseling profession, according to the associations that set those standards (based on best practices and, ahem, science). A right-wing Christian cardiologist could pioneer a “pray away the heart disease” treatment system, and it wouldn’t affect his First Amendment rights for him to lose his license.

The counseling, also known as reparative therapy, is promoted by a small number of therapists who challenge the prevailing scientific consensus that sexual orientation is largely inborn and cannot be changed.

These therapists assert, instead, that gender confusion is the result of childhood trauma and that sexual orientation can be reshaped. Their theory is also promoted by some conservative Christian groups.

Except that the only thing that’s been proven about “reparative” therapy, from a scientific perspective, is that it is harmful.

The lawsuits to be argued on Wednesday were brought by two conservative legal groups, the Pacific Justice Institute, based in Sacramento, and Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with Liberty University in Virginia.

That would be the same Liberty Counsel whose most well-known client is a kidnapper currently hiding in Central America.

In its brief to the court, Liberty Counsel says that the California law permits counseling that affirms homosexuality but bans the opposite “viewpoint,” which holds that patients can overcome unwanted homosexual attractions.

Just as kidnapping is against the law, which also bans the opposite “viewpoint,” that kidnapping kids because you think Jesus wants you to is just fine.

As Wayne points out in the New York Times article, lawsuits are moving on this issue in New Jersey and Massachusetts as well.