By John Riley on April 11, 2016 @JRileyMW
Lawmakers in Tennessee passed a bill last week that allows counselors and therapists to claim a religious or moral exemption for treating patients referred to them.
The measure allows mental health professionals, counselors and other therapists to refuse to see clients whose cases go against their “sincerely held principles.” Those who refuse to treat someone due to, say, their sexual orientation would be protected from the threat of lawsuits or criminal prosecution, as well as any retaliatory action by state government, such as the denial of special tax breaks, grants or government contracts. The bill does require those who refuse to treat patients based on that objection to refer them to another counselor or therapist who will take the case. The bill passed in the House of Representatives by a 68-22 margin.
The Senate version of the bill easily passed the upper chamber by a 27-5 margin, but the bill must be amended further, since the House changed the Senate’s wording from “sincerely held religious belief” to “sincerely held principles,” reports The Tennessean. In doing so, they expanded the number of people able to claim an exemption beyond just those who object based on religion but on moral principles, which requires a much lower threshold for justification. If the Senate approves the revised language, the bill will head to the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam (R), who must either veto it or sign it into law.
But Haslam has been reticent to publicly endorse any anti-LGBT legislation sent to him by the General Assembly. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office previously noted that Haslam had reservations about signing a separate anti-LGBT bill that requires students in educational settings to use only the restroom or changing facility that corresponds to their biological sex at birth as listed on their birth certificate. As a result of both the “bathroom bill” and this religious exemption bill, Haslam is facing economic pressure from the business community to veto both measures. If either bill becomes law, Tennessee could potentially see businesses scuttle plans to relocate to, expand in, or hold conventions in the state.
Proponents on the measure argue that the bill is necessary to protect the free speech and conscience rights of therapists. They say they are responding to a change that the American Counseling Association made to its code of ethics in 2014. That provision says that a counselor or therapist cannot refuse to treat a client based solely on the therapist’s “personally held values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.”
“They have elevated their code above the First Amendment and we need to correct that, and that’s why this bill is here today,” Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown), the chief sponsor of the bill, said of the ACA’s change during the floor debate last week.
Democrats and LGBT legislative allies tried to introduce six different amendments that would lessen the sting of the exemptions provided to therapists. One would have prohibited therapists from exercising the exemption when the clients are minors who are victims of bullying, and one would have prevented the therapist from charging the client they are refusing to treat. Another would have required any therapist with those objections to post a public notice stating that they reserve the right to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections, and include that notice in any advertising materials.
The Tennessee Equality Project is circulating a petition asking Haslam to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, noting that the bill — especially in light of the failure of the proposed anti-bullying amendment — leaves youth, particularly those in rural areas where mental health services are not widely available, vulnerable.
“This bill puts the focus on the desires of counselors rather than on the needs of clients, damaging the counseling profession and putting clients at risk,” the petition reads. As of Monday evening, more than 2600 people had signed the petition.
By John Riley on June 6, 2023 @JRileyMW
A federal judge has ruled that a Tennessee law severely limiting drag shows in public or in establishments where children might see them is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Parker, of the Western District of Tennessee, found that the law, signed into effect by Republican Gov. Bill Lee in March, was "unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad," infringing on the free speech rights of drag performers.
The law classifies drag performances as "adult cabaret performances," similar to topless dancing, go-go dancing, exotic dancing, and stripping acts, and prohibits them from occurring on public property or in places where minors view them.
By John Riley on May 1, 2023 @JRileyMW
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint challenging Tennessee's recently passed ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, joining a lawsuit brought by three families of transgender minors.
In the complaint, the Justice Department argues that the law prohibiting access to gender-affirming care discriminates against transgender individuals under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
As such, the complaint asks the court to issue an order blocking the law from going into effect on July 1.
Under the bill, SB 1, which easily passed on a largely party-line vote in the Republican-dominated state legislature, healthcare providers are prohibited from providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgical interventions to minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
By Hugh McIntyre on May 4, 2023 @popbanghugh
Singer-songwriter Hayley Kiyoko is currently on her The Panorama Tour, and as her way of adding a little something special to each show, she has been bringing stunning drag queens out on stage with her.
In a scary and truly scary turn of events, she faced a roadblock at a recent concert in Nashville, Tennessee when she was threatened with legal action due to the involvement of the queens.
Kiyoko took to Instagram to express her feelings before going on stage, and she shared an emotional post about being told that she wasn’t allowed to have the drag queens at her show.
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