Following its unsuccessful opposition to Tennessee’s HB1840, which allows counselors to discriminate against clients based on personal belief, the American Counseling Association announced today it is moving its 2017 ACA Conference away from Nashville, where it had been scheduled, and to a different state.
In a statement from President Thelma Duffey, the organization announced that the 2017 ACA Conference will be located in a state that supports non-discrimination in counseling. The specific new location has not yet been determined.
Tennessee’s law is specifically targeted at counselors and therapists, and comes at a time when the field generally is wrestling with the desire among some religious counselors and therapists to refuse service to clients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Under the new Tennessee law, a therapist or counselor can refuse service to any client based on any sincerely held belief of the counselor or therapist, and will be protected from disciplinary actions by their universities and licensing boards. However, professional associations can still discipline therapists and counselors in response to ethics complaints about discrimination, and the ACA has clearly said it will do so.
Moving a conference, especially when the conference is less than a year away, is a difficult and expensive proposition. Kudos to the ACA for taking a courageous (and, in my view, appropriate) stand on this issue: It means the new law immediately will cost Tennessee about $10 million in economic activity. It also likely means that no other large counseling or therapy organization will locate major events in the state so long as the pro-discrimination law stands.
For my earlier post on the bill, click here. For a video message from ACA CEO Richard Yep on their decision to move the conference, click here. The ACA has a handy “Myths versus Facts” post a bit farther down the page here, describing some of the misconceptions about the bill and the ACA’s response to it.