Tenn. Bill That Lets Counselors Deny Service To LGBT People Heads To Guv

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April 12, 2016 8:15 a.m.

The Tennessee state senate on Monday passed a bill that would let counselors reject clients who are gay based on their religious beliefs, sending the legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam (R).

Senators agreed to a change made by the state House in the bill’s language that would let therapists reject clients based on “sincerely held principles,” as opposed to “sincerely held religious beliefs,” according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

State Rep. Dan Howell (R) pushed the legislation in response to the American Counseling Association’s decision to change its ethics code, telling counselors not to refer potential clients “based solely on the counselor’s personally held values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.”

The American Counseling Association has condemned the Tennessee bill, calling it an “unwanted and unnecessary blow to the counseling profession and those who benefit from the services of a professional counselor.” In a March statement, the group warned that the Tennessee bill would “essentially permit discrimination” and “would have a deleterious effect on countless people who seek mental and physical health services.”

Last week, Haslam told reporters that he can “understand the reasoning” behind the bill, but said he would wait to make a determination on the final bill, according to The Tennessean.

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