Mental health therapists and counselors in Tennessee can now turn away gay patients or others whose "goals, outcomes, or behaviors" conflict with their "sincerely held beliefs." Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed Bill 1556 into law on Wednesday, saying it doesn't "address a group, issue, or belief system," though opponents say it's a troubling attack on gay rights, CNN reports. The bill was created in response to the American Counseling Association's 2014 change to its ethics code, which required counselors to avoid imposing their own values on clients, the Tennessean reports.
The ACA says the Tennessee legislation, which is the only such law in the country, is an "unprecedented attack" on the profession, the AP reports. ACA spokesman Art Terrazas says the group is "extremely disappointed" that Haslam has ignored the backlash to similar "religious freedom" bills in states like Georgia "and has elected to sign this dangerous bill into law. Plain and simple, this bill codifies discrimination." The final version of the bill removed references to religion and added requirements for therapists to treat people who are in immediate danger of harming themselves or others, and to refer rejected clients to other therapists or counselors. (Earlier this month, Haslam vetoed a bill to make the Bible the official state book.)