Gay activists deplore the existence of such options, claiming that it shames patients and represses their natural desires. Yet proponents of civil liberties support it, believing the greater threat is limiting a client's right or the religious therapist's ability to administer sound judgment in full integrity as she helps her client achieve his/her goals.
Conflicts like this are likely to keep the debate hot and fractured. Here are three big reasons the LGBTQ community may continue to oppose the rights of clients and religious-based therapists and why the religious community must persevere:
Allowing "conversion" therapy to go forward acknowledges that change is possible.
The roots of sexual attraction are hotly debated in both the scientific and psychiatric communities. No one has discovered a "gay gene," and neither has anyone proved that same-sex attraction can be credited solely to nature and not also nurture. Research and opinions on the matter are evolving.
Credible therapists do not claim that sexual-orientation change therapy turns people into ex-gay, happily married heterosexuals. Although some who participate in this type of therapy do not experience the full transformation they hoped for, others claim conversion therapy helped them achieve the results they sought.
Dr. Nicholas Cummings, a former president of the American Psychological Association, stated, "In my twenty years at Kaiser Permanente Health Maintenance Organization, 67 percent of the homosexuals who sought help from therapists for issues such as 'the transient nature of relationships, disgust or guilt feelings about promiscuity, fear of disease, (and) a wish to have a traditional family' experienced various levels of success obtaining their goals.
"In some cases ... individuals who initiated therapy not seeking to change their sexual orientation, actually did so through the process of working through other psychological issues," he said.
Everyone possesses attributes we'd like to change: behaviors, character qualities, temptation patterns. Therapy, of all kinds, can help us stare those down and create the life we desire to live. Some may learn to accept these attributes and even embrace their greater purpose, while others seek to minimize or eliminate that characteristic.
If someone is distressed over his or her sexuality, they deserve the opportunity to explore the distress in a safe, well-resourced space. It is up to the individual and the therapist to gauge how that process will best happen.
If altering sexual orientation is possible, the "born this way" ideology has to face a trickier reality.