Tennessee Governor Signs Mean-Spirited “Counseling Discrimination Bill” Into Law

Hayley Miller

Last night, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a mean-spirited anti-LGBT bill. The “Counseling Discrimination Bill,” SB 1556, allows a licensed counselor in a private practice to use personal or religious beliefs as an excuse to terminate care or refer away LGBT clients, as long as they refer the client to another counselor.

“This legislation is needless, mean-spirited, and wrong," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "Driven by nothing more than animosity towards LGBT people, the new law allows therapists to put their personal religious beliefs over the needs of LGBT youth and adults in need of care."

HRC, the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) and the ACLU of Tennessee actively urged Governor Haslam to veto this harmful bill.

Many counseling professionals and organizations in the state of Tennessee as well as the American Counseling Association (ACA) vigorously opposed the legislation. 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 anti-LGBT counselors from the standards of practice that all other counselors must follow.

Out of the 27 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation that the Tennessee legislature considered this year, only the “Counseling Discrimination Bill” passed both chambers.

Last week, the sponsor of one of those bills, HB 2414, announced plans to pull the discriminatory bill from consideration for this year. The outrageous legislation would have forced transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity.

HRC will continue to fight back against anti-LGBT legislation across the nation.

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