Washington, DC mayor bans city-funded travel to Tennessee over therapist law – The Tennessean

8 months ago Comments Off on Washington, DC mayor bans city-funded travel to Tennessee over therapist law – The Tennessean

WASHINGTON — Washington, D.C., has become the second city to ban publicly funded travel to Tennessee over the state’s controversial new law allowing mental health counselors to deny services to gay, lesbian and transgender clients and others.

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order, issued May 11 and published Friday in the city’s official legal bulletin, bars all city-funded travel to the Volunteer State on the grounds that the law could be “particularly harmful” to the LGBT community.

Official travel to Tennessee is prohibited “to ensure a constant voice in policy and practice in the District of Columbia in favor of equal treatment for all,” the order says.

The ban will remain in effect until the Tennessee law is “permanently enjoined, repealed or amended.”

Washington’s ban is the latest repercussion for Tennessee over its new law, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed late last month.

The law allows licensed counselors and therapists to deny service to counselors whose “goals, outcomes or behaviors” conflict with the counselor’s “sincerely held principles” — a measure the American Counseling Association had denounced as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.

Counselors and therapists who deny such services are shielded from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution and sanctions by the state licensing board for counselors so long as they coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor who would serve them.

Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney banned all publicly funded, non-essential travel to Tennessee, saying the law “infringes on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.”

Earlier this month, the American Counseling Association canceled its annual conference — set to be held in Nashville next year — in protest of the new law.

The group believes Music City will lose as many as 3,000 visitors next year, $4 million in combined local and state tax revenue and a local economic impact of up to $10 million.

In addition to the counseling group, the Colorado-based Centers for Spiritual Living, which was expected to bring 550 people to Nashville in February, also canceled its convention in protest of the law.

Despite the recent backlash, Haslam has regularly defended his decision, including during an appearance at a recent fundraiser for the Tennessee Republican Party.

“We want every bit of business we can in Tennessee but we also have to do things that we think are right,” he said. “This isn’t a hate bill, it isn’t discrimination. It’s about serving the client the best way you can and counselors of conscience that’s what they want to do.”

Joel Ebert contributed to this report. 

Washington, DC mayor bans city-funded travel to Tennessee over therapist law – The Tennessean

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