Final Changes to First-in-the-Nation Legislation Actually Broadens Scope of Bill's Discrimination
A Tennessee bill that will allow therapists and counselors to legally refuse service to LGBT people is now headed to GOP Gov. Bill Haslam. On Monday lawmakers in both chambers agreed to a change in HB 1840 that actually broadens the scope of the bill's discriminatory nature.
The original bill allowed mental health professionals as well as unlicensed therapists and counselors to use "a sincerely held religious belief" to deny service to anyone. The Times Free Press reported Monday night lawmakers have changed that language to "sincerely held principles," thus expanding the reasons someone seeking help could legally be refused.
No other state has passed this kind of legislation.
GOP State Senator Jack Johnson has been on national television defending his bill. He blames the American Counseling Association for changing its standards in 2014, barring therapists from refusing service based on sincerely held religious beliefs or sincerely held principles.
As NCRM reported last week after lawmakers in both the House and Senate had passed the bill, the legislation is particularly onerous for LGBT people in Tennessee. Of its 6.5 million residents overall, nearly one-quarter live in rural areas, where access to mental health professionals can be especially limited. While the bill states a therapist must provide a referral if they refuse service, it's not only possible, but likely, another therapist willing to help an LGBT person could be hours away.
Worse, for young LGBTQ people with limited access to both insurance and transportation, the results literally could be deadly. An LGBTQ child or teen who needs help could be turned away and not be able to get to a therapist willing to treat them if their office is miles away, and their parents are unwilling to help. Many LGBTQ children and teens, already four times more likely to attempt suicide, fear being thrown out of their homes if parents learn they are LGBTQ.
It's unknown if Gov. Haslam will sign the bill.
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