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Gay men challenge Tennessee counseling law

[JURIST] Bleu Copas and Caleb Laieski filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in the Chancery Court for Anderson County on Tuesday, challenging a Tennessee law [SB 1556, PDF] that protects counselors who refuse to provide services to individuals based on their religious beliefs. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam [official website], who is named in the lawsuit, signed the bill [press release] into law in April. The bill shields counselors and therapists that refuse to treat clients who conflict with the "sincerely held principles" of the counselor. The men claim the law violates both state and federal grants of equal protection. The law mandates that a professional refusing to serve a client on these grounds must refer the client to another professional who will provide the service. Copas and Laieski maintain that the LGBT community was thesole target [Reuters report] of the legislation.

The intersection of religious liberty, sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue in the US. In April Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed [JURIST report] an executive order creating a new anti-discrimination law intended to protect members of the LGBT community. Prior to signing the executive order, there was no state law in Louisiana protecting LGBT individuals from employment discrimination. Shortly before Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said that he would veto [JURIST report] a religious freedom bill that critics claim would sanction discrimination against LGBT individuals. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe also vetoed [press release] a similar bill in March. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper stated [JURIST report] during a press conference that he would not defend House Bill 2, which he considers to be discriminatory against the LGBT community. That legislation specifically prohibits [JURIST report] local municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances.

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