UPDATING: Governor Signs ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Allowing Counselors to Deny Service to LGBT People


Tennessee Counselors Will Now Be Able to Tell LGBTQ Children and Teens They Will Not Help Them

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam has just signed into law HB 1840, a bill that allows counselors, therapists, and mental health professionals to refuse service to LGBT people, atheists, divorced people, literally anyone, merely by claiming their "sincerely held religious beliefs" allow them to.

EARLIER: Bill Allowing Therapists to Refuse Service to LGBT People Becomes Law if Governor Doesn't Veto Today

Technically, the counselor must refer the patient to another counselor, but given that one quarter of Tennessee residents live in rural areas, LGBTQ youth and teens who are especially vulnerable, and unable to travel without their parents, will be at higher risk of possible self-harm.

"After working with allies the entire legislative session, especially the American Counseling Association and many counselors in Tennessee, to defeat the HB1840, we had hoped for a veto," Chris Sanders, Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project said in a statement. "We know the Governor carefully considered his decision, but the reality we now face is that counselors will be able to discriminate against clients based on the counselor's principles. We continue to worry particularly about rural LGBT people who may not have adequate resources for counseling in their communities."


"I believe it is reasonable to allow these professionals to determine if and when an individual would be better served by another counselor better suited to meet his or her needs," Gov. Haslam said in a statement, according to Buzzfeed.

"The substance of this bill doesn't address a group, issue or belief system," he added. "Rather, it allows counselors - just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers - to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle."


Reese Withspoon last week posted this tweet:

Other responses:


Via Chicago Tribune:
"I've been through a pretty exhaustive process of talking to a lot of counselors, both those who think it's needed and those who don't," Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told The Associated Press. 


This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. This story will be updated, and NCRM will likely publish follow-up stories on this news. Stay tuned and refresh for updates. 


Image by Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce via Flickr and a CC license

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