Post submitted by Ryan Wilson, HRC Senior Regional Field Organizer
Last week the Tennessee General Assembly ended their session ‘sine die’ (with no date to return this year). The end of the 2016 session was marked with a high note as over 20 bills that HRC and our coalition partners were tracking died and Rep. Lynn’s anti-transgender student bill failed to pass either chamber. This terrible bill would have denied transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, at both K-12 and public universities in Tennessee.
Yet the fate of one more bill that would negatively impact LGBT Tennesseans still hangs in the balance this week. HB1840/SB1556 or ‘The Counseling Discrimination Bill’ would allow licensed counselors in private practice to use their own religious beliefs as an excuse for terminating care or referring away clients because of moral objections based on the client’s identity. The bill passed both House and Senate before session ended and was sent to the Governor for action.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has less than 24 hours left to take action on this mean-spirited legislation or it could automatically become law. HRC, the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) and the ACLU of Tennessee have joined with the American Counseling Association (ACA) to call on Governor Bill Haslam to veto this harmful bill.
Many counseling professionals and organizations in the state of Tennessee have vigorously opposed this bill. The ACA sets the Code of Ethics and standards for practice nationally and these are adopted by the state of Tennessee as its standards for licensing counselors in the state. This bill sets a dangerous precedent that exempts religious counselors from the standards of practice that all other counselors must follow.
Governor Bill Haslam has the ability to show leadership in Tennessee, much as his fellow Republican governors in South Dakota and Georgia have done this year by vetoing anti-LGBT legislation in their states. However, time is running out for Gov. Haslam to do the right thing in Tennessee.
Click here to send a message to Governor Bill Haslam today and ask him to veto The Counseling Discrimination Bill before it is too late.