I try to shy away from controversy here as much as possible. Not because I don’t have opinions one way or another but just because that’s not what the purpose of this place is.
But, there is a bill that was passed recently in Tennessee; Bill HB 1840. Bill HB 1840 was signed into law on April 27th and stated that counselors are within their legal right to deny services or refer clients to other counselors on the basis of the providers “sincerely held principles”. It also allows counselors to deny services to clients who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. You can see more of the bill details here.
As a counselor, I’m dumbstruck by this. It’s one thing to refer out because they’re presenting an issue that you aren’t qualified to deal with (like loss of a child or abuse, etc). But, as a counselor, you take an oath to treat all clients regardless of race, sexuality, creed, etc, and this law is basically saying that our code of ethics doesn’t matter and it’s okay to discriminate for any kind of difference. I’m not okay with that, it’s setting such a bad precedent for our profession. There’s already so much stigma in counseling and this has the potential to make it worse.
I have been a proud American Counseling Association member for about 5 years now. I support them and hold a position on one of their committees because so staunchly look after and protect the interests of counselors and also protect the clients of their counselors. There are people who work in ACA to promote the profession, to show that what we do is important and that we are here to help everyone and anyone who needs it.
I’ve mentioned before that ACA has an annual conference. Each year, they choose a different state to host the conference; it allows their members to travel and experience different areas and it allows the state divisions to host and show off the great work they are doing in their state. The 2017 ACA Conference was scheduled to be held in Nashville, TN. With the passing of HB 1840, ACA has formally halted all conference preparations and stated that no ACA Conference will be held in this state. Before the bill was passed, ACA told TN lawmakers they would be forced to pull out of their agreement to hold our conference there if they signed this bill. And they signed it anyway. So now ACA is looking at other states to hold their conference.
I’ve always been a proud ACA Member, but I was never as proud as I was after reading that statement. It would have been much easier for them, logistics-wise, to just stay in TN and deal with the fallout. But they refuse to condone such acts and will do anything that they have to to make sure that everyone is treated equally and fairly. ACA has also pointed out that if they find any counselor in TN refusing to provide services to someone based on their sexual identity, they will be brought up on ethical violation charges in front of the ethics committee, which could mean they lose their license to practice.
There is so much…crap going on in this world right now. Counseling has always been one of those areas where no one would be turned away because of their choices, beliefs, preferences, etc. That’s not something we can ever or should ever change. Everyone needs some place safe to be themselves especially in a world that is becoming so challenging and cold to anyone and everyone. I am very glad and proud of the decision that the ACA made and I stand behind it completely.