A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction on California's ban on "conversion" therapy -- a method some say can help turn a gay person straight.
The first of its kind in the United States, the state ban was intended to prevent young people under 18 from undergoing the controversial treatment. It would have gone into effect January 1.
Conversion therapy has been being hotly debated across the country for some time. In November, four homosexual men who underwent the therapy filed a civil suit in New Jersey against a counseling group, saying they were deceived under the state's Consumer Fraud Act.
The therapy techniques described in that lawsuit included having participants strip naked in group sessions, cuddling and intimate holding of others of the same sex, violently beating an effigy of their mothers with a tennis racket, visiting bath houses "in order to be nude with father figures," and being "subjected to ridicule as 'faggots' and 'homos' in mock locker room scenarios."
Some psychologists insist conversion therapy is dangerous to patients, and say it simply does not work.
"To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective," the American Psychological Association writes on its website.
"Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons," says the APA, the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States.
Since 1975, the APA has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations.
U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled Monday that the ban Gov. Jerry Brown signed earlier this year could offend the First Amendment rights of therapists to express their opinions about homosexuality. Three plaintiffs filed the suit, arguing that the ban was unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs are a licensed marriage and family therapist who is also an ordained minister; a medical doctor and board-certified psychiatrist who works with people over 16 years old; and a man who was sexually attracted to other men but who wanted to practice conversion therapy to "help" men like him.
Earlier this year, Brown tweeted about the measure to ban conversion therapy on minors.
"This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide," the governor tweeted. "These practices have no basis in science or medicine."
Shubb counters in a 38-page ruling that he didn't believe there was sufficient evidence to support the argument that conversion therapy could prompt patients to commit suicide.
That assumption is "based on questionable and scientifically incomplete studies that may not have included minors," the judge wrote.
David Pickup, a spokesman for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, believes conversion therapy is valid and should be used.
"We do competent therapy, therapy that truly works," he told CNN in October, adding that he'd undergone the treatment himself and was treating others.