Republican-dominated legislatures in Southern states have recently renewed their efforts to strip away rights from LGBTQ-Americans with a series of unconstitutional and obviously discriminatory laws masquerading as “religious liberty” bills. The state of Tennessee is the most recent one to join the ranks of North Carolina and Mississippi to waste taxpayer time and money on an entirely unnecessary, unproductive, and simply hurtful piece of legislation.
The Tennessee House of Representatives just passed HB 1556, which would allow therapists and mental-health counselors who believe that homosexuals are touched by Satan or possibly have magical powers or harbor any other laughably ridiculous beliefs to deny their services to LGBT citizens. It is unknown if this is a truly significant burden on the therapists of Tennessee.
Apparently the bill was drafted as a response to the American Counseling Association’s 2014 code of ethics, which mandated that counselors not impose their personal values onto their clients, which shouldn’t even need to be said. But apparently the “leftists” at the ACA have overstepped their bounds. Sponsor Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) complained that the ACA had “overstepped their authority and elevated their code above the First amendment and that’s why we’re here today.”
The ACLU roundly denounced the bill for obvious reasons: “For people seeking counseling because they are faced with a critical dilemma in their lives and need objective guidance, allowing mental-health professionals to discriminate could cause grave damage. Many who need care already face significant barriers, including trauma, marginalization, and a historic distrust of mental-health providers. For some — like a woman who wants to escape her abusive spouse or a gay teen being bullied, for example — this bill could affect their very survival.”
Over fifty Tennessee clergy members have signed a letter demanding that the Senate kill the bill before it becomes law, showing that the bill isn’t about “religious freedom” at all, but a politically motivated attack against LGBT Americans based in hate and ignorance: “As faith leaders and clergy serving people in Tennessee, we urge the Tennessee House of Representatives to reject House Bill 1840, which allows counselors to turn clients away based on the counselor’s religious beliefs. Those seeking counseling deserve the highest standard of care and we believe the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics provides that standard.”
Incessantly devoted to discriminating against any citizen who isn’t a white Christian cis male, Republican legislatures would be much better served focusing on undoing the crippling damage that they’ve done to their state economies with reckless tax cuts – and minding their own damned business when it comes to the private matters of sexuality.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.