In explaining his reasons for filing a lawsuit blocking enforcement of a California law banning “ex-gay” therapy to minors, Mathew Staver, chairman of the Christian conservative Liberty Counsel, has called such therapy “beneficial” to the minors he's representing.

The first-in-the-nation law prohibits therapies which promise to alter the sexual orientation of minors from gay to straight. It was scheduled to take effect on January 1. But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals postponed the law's start until it can hear a legal challenge, reversing a district court's refusal to put the law on hold.

The appeals court heard the challenge on Wednesday.

“The notion that you can change someone's sexual orientation and that homosexuality is a disease or mental illness is pure quackery,” Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu, who sponsored the law, told the AP outside the courtroom. “Patients were suffering tremendous psychological harm from gay conversion therapy, including guilt, self-hatred and some of them committed suicide.”

Staver called the law “an unprecedented intrusion into the doctor-patient, counselor-client relationship.”

“It intrudes into the confidential relationship that only the client and counselor should be able to have information. What the state has done is actually tell the counselor that only one viewpoint on the same-sex sexual attractions, behavior and identity is permissible.”

“We filed the lawsuit because the minors that we represent have been receiving this counsel and have been benefiting. Their anger, their self-hatred, their relationships with their friends, the relationships with their families have all improved since they've received this kind of counseling. And it would be irreparable and harm to them to ultimately stop this in midstream.”