The homophobia and transphobia infused in Tennessee’s House Bill 1840 is a disgrace to the mental health community. Denying mental health services to any person based on a counselor’s religious beliefs is harmful to every marginalized person in need of help and is a violation of The American Counseling Association’s code of ethics. It is shocking to see “The Volunteer State,” which has historically fought for the civil rights of Americans, become the first state government to forward this type of discriminatory bill. HB 1840 puts counselors before clients and will negatively impact the mental health and safety of LGBTQ youth.
At The Trevor Project, the only accredited national suicide prevention and crisis intervention service for LGBTQ youth, we are seeing some of the highest volumes of calls from the South. HB 1840 is particularly damaging to the LGBTQ community in rural areas, where access to services and mental healthcare is already limited due to not only location, but also discriminatory barriers. For LGBTQ young people who experience trauma and marginalization, distrust of healthcare providers, businesses, and religious institutions in their areas can prevent them from seeking necessary help. The passage of HB 1840 and other so-called “religious freedom” bills in Mississippi and North Carolina will further exacerbate this. Thankfully, the American Counseling Association and many organizations across Tennessee oppose HB 1840, while many of North Carolina and Mississippi’s largest employers are publicly voicing opposition against their respective “religious freedom” bills.
If Governor Bill Haslam signs HB 1840, young LGBTQ people in Tennessee may face limited access to mental health services. We are grateful that The Tennessee Equality Project is fighting to veto this bill. To take action, please sign their petition or contact Governor Bill Haslam’s office. Our Lifeline counselors are here 24/7 at 866-488-7386 and thetrevorproject.org for the young people in Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, and all of those around the United States who are witnessing these anti-LGBTQ policies go through legislation. You are not alone and we are fighting for you.
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Executive Director and CEO, The Trevor Project