Tennessee's anti-LGBT bill would allow counselors to refuse service

It's not clear if Gov. Haslam will sign a bill to allow therapists to turn away clients based on “sincerely held principles.” Photo by Erik Schelzig, AP.

By Greg White
Staff Writer

The Tennessee legislature recently passed HB 1840, a bill that would allow therapists and counselors to turn away patients based on their “sincerely held principles.”

According to Buzzfeed News, Gov. Bill Haslam hasn’t been clear if he will veto or sign the bill into law.

But the pressure on Haslam to block it is minimal compared to the crush of corporate lobbying faced by governors of Mississippi and Georgia, where legislatures this year passed broad religious freedom bills that critics said allowed services and products to be denied to LGBT people. Georgia’s governor ultimately acceded and vetoed the bill — Mississippi’s governor did not, and is now in the bull’s eye of protests.

So what are the important facts to know about HB 1840? According to a Media Matters report, in addition to allowing discrimination against LGBT patients, the bill’s broad wording means “a therapist opposed to war or U.S. military policy could refuse to treat a veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome,” according to Art Terrazas, director of government affairs for the American Counseling Association. That could mean some patients going without care if they are refused by the only available counselor -- a possibility in schools and particularly rural areas.

Also, the bill’s broad license to discriminate violates the ethics of all major counseling professions, which prohibit unfair discrimination against clients. 

Finally, anti-LGBT extremist groups Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Family Action Council of Tennessee are behind the lobbying efforts to pass the discriminatory legislation.  ADF is a conservative Christian nonprofit that has been behind the many anti-lgbt “religious freedom” and “bathroom bills” that have been swept legislatures nationwide.


Buzzfeed News and Media Matters contributed to this report.

The Gayly- 4/17/2016 @ 1:16 PM CDT