TN Equality, ACA call on Governor to veto counseling discrimination bill

The Tennessee General Assembly recently voted to pass HB 1840/SB 1556. Also known as Hate Bill 1840, HB1840 will permit counselors to deny services and refer clients based on the provider’s “strongly held beliefs.” Not only is the proposed legislation discriminatory in nature, but it is also an unnecessary government intrusion that could result in costly unintended consequences for the state of Tennessee. Today, national and state leaders gathered on a press call to discuss the implications of this harmful legislation and call on Governor Haslam to do the right thing and veto the bill.


If the Governor signs the bill into law, Tennessee will become the only state in the country to invalidate the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics and the vague language will open a Pandora’s box of discrimination toward Tennesseans, most blatantly toward the LGBT community.


Said Art Terrazas, Director of Government Relations, American Counseling Association, “This is the first time in the history of the Association that any legislative body—local, state, federal—has ever passed a piece of legislation specifically targeting our code of ethics, that has never been done. This bill opens the door to blanket discrimination—whether it’s a veteran suffering from PTSD or a woman suffering from spousal abuse— and we at the American Counseling Association are not going to stand for that. Governor Haslam now has a choice. He can either follow the  heroic example set by Governor Deal of Georgia and veto this terrible legislation, or he can be on the wrong side of history and legalize discrimination.”


Added John Duggan, Licensed Professional Counselor and Manager of Professional Development at the American Counseling Association, “I want to say strongly and clearly—this bill codifies the ability of counselors to discriminate. It creates a dilemma that will leave clients in a very difficult situation and something that as a licensed counselor, I cannot wrap my head around. Refusing to see a client  because of their gender identity or sexual orientation after establishing a relationship is abandonment plain and simple and that is not and should not be permitted.”


Chris Sanders, Executive Director, Tennessee Equality Project concluded, “If this bill is enacted, the eyes of the country will turn to Tennessee, and I fear we will reap the whirlwind. After enacting similar legislation, Georgia and North Carolina saw a huge loss of investment in their states. But, unlike those states, Tennessee does not have an income tax, so we rely heavily on tourism and the investment of national companies. If our long term economic development is thwarted by this legislation, it’s hard to know how Tennessee will move forward. We’ve come to a critical point, and Tennesseans have to choose between prosperity or discrimination.”




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