NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The mayor of Washington D.C. issued an order banning city-funded travel to Tennessee after Governor Bill Haslam signed a controversial counseling bill into law.
Mayor Muriel Bowser cited the law as her reasoning. It allows counselors and therapists to decline service to clients based on sincerely held beliefs or principles.
Bowser’s order says the legislation “allows therapists to discriminate against persons seeking professional counseling, and could be particularly harmful for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) communities.”
The mayor notes that the District of Columbia “should support values of inclusiveness and respect for all,” therefore banning all officers and employees from travelling to Tennessee on the city’s dime.
Mayor Bowser said the ban will remain until the bill is enjoined, repealed or amended.
In late April, Washington state’s Secretary of State said she’ll be skipping this summer’s National Association of Secretaries of State meeting over the law as well.
News 2 reached out to the governor for comment. His press secretary replied and said “they won’t experience all that Tennessee has to offer.
Press Secretary Jennifer Donnals continued, “Just two years ago the American Counseling Association followed the same practice and recommendation that HB 1840 puts in place. The governor believes that, at the end of the day, counselors should be like any other professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, and have the availability to decide whether they can appropriately serve a client. This law provides that a therapist cannot turn away someone in a life-threatening situation and has to refer the client to another appropriate therapist, providing protection for the client as well as respecting the therapist as a professional.”
Mayor Megan Barry also responded Friday, saying, “Efforts by the state legislature to promote discrimination are harmful to Nashville’s economy and our ability to attract conventions, tourism, and business to our city. I would not encourage a mayor or other entity to boycott Tennessee, and by extension Nashville, however I do understand and share their frustration with these laws.”