Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today signed the first ever state law, hiding under the pretense of “religious freedom,” to allow therapists and counselors to refuse to treat clients based on “sincerely held religious principles.”
Read that – “turn away the gays.”
According to Buzzfeed‘s Dominic Holden, “House Bill 1840 provides counselors and therapists immunity from liability if they turn away a client whose goals, outcomes, or behaviors conflict with their beliefs. Counselors who decline clients would need to refer them to a provider who will see them.”
From AP reports:
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he signed the bill after talking to numerous counselors, including those who were in favor and those opposed.
The American Counseling Association called the legislation an “unprecedented attack” on the counseling profession and said Tennessee was the only state to ever pass such a law.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jack Johnson, maintains the bill is “not anti-anybody, it’s not anti-anything; it’s just pro-religious liberty.”
Via press release, Art Terrazas, the Director of Government Relations at the American Counseling Association said, “We are extremely disappointed that Governor Haslam has ignored the lessons learned in North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi and has elected to sign this dangerous bill into law. Plain and simple, this bill codifies discrimination.
“It not only disproportionately affects LGBTQ Tennesseans seeking counseling, but will also have unintended consequences that will reach Tennesseans in all walks of life—whether it’s a veteran suffering from PTSD, a woman suffering from spousal abuse, or a business owner simply trying to attract out of state clients.”