Saturday, May 21, 2016

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month, But Not Every State Honors It



Tennessee and Mississippi Have Discriminatory Laws

Last month, Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law House Bill 1840 that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people.  The law allows counselors to cite religious beliefs for refusing services to LGBT patients. Originally, the terminology of the bill allowed for “sincerely held beliefs,” but the state House then broadened phrasing to “sincerely held principles.”

Religious Freedom Bill

Tennessee is the only state to allow counselors, because of their “ sincerely held principles,” to turn away potential LGBT clients. Denounced by the American Counseling Association as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.

According to the ACA, it violates the group’s code of ethics that delineates that mental health professional can refuse to serve patients in the name of
‘Christian love’ because it compromises the therapists’ “goals, outcomes or behaviors.”

While the bill does not give a mental health professional the right to turn away any patient who is experiencing an emergency nor an excuse from an obligation to refer a patient to another professional, what it does do is discriminate against a marginalized group who already may experience prejudice and is in need of help.
A group who is constantly fighting for their rights that heterosexuals take for granted and witnesses harassment is going to be more in need of psychotherapy than the general population.

Mississippi House Bill 1523

Similarly, Governor Phil Bryant (R) rationalized his Bill, also passed last month, in the name of  “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination.”  House Bill 1523 legislates discrimination by allowing private and public business to refuse business to same-sex couples because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

It allows florists, wedding photographers, bakeries, and other wedding-affiliated services, for example, to deny business to gay couples with nuptials although the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Despite the progress in civil rights for LGBT people, there continues to be a conservative backlash in this country.  It doesn’t make for equality or good mental health.