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LGBT Activist files federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee therapist law

[JURIST] An LGBT rights activist filed a federal lawsuit [complaint, pdf] Monday challenging a Tennessee law [text, pdf] that allows counselors to refuse to serve clients based on religious views.

The law, signed in April 2016 [JURIST report] by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam [official website], allows therapists to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections, when that patient's "goals, outcomes or behaviors" conflict with the counselor's "sincerely held principles."

The lawsuit was filed by activist Bleu Copas, a former Arabic translator and linguist for the US Army, who was honorably yet involuntarily discharged [AP report] in 2006 pursuant to the military's former Don't Ask Don't Tell [JURIST backgrounder] policy. Since his discharge, he has sought mental health services, and as the suit notes, "desires to re-engage in therapy, but fears that a therapist will refuse to treat him because of his sexuality."

The suit states:

The Bill's authors intended for the Bill to empower certain people to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. In an attempt to camouflage their intent, the authors drafted a bill that allows for all types of discrimination.

The suit argues that the Tennessee law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the First Amendment's Establishment Clause [text], which prohibits governments from establishing or protecting only one religion, or enacting any "law respecting an establishment of religion."

Copas filed a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] last year in Chancery Court for Anderson County, Tennessee.

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