If you haven't followed the discussions of SB1556, it might be easy to conclude that the bill has no connection to the LGBT community.
Indeed, the Senate sponsor said in an interview with WKRN that "It's not anti-anybody..."
Before we get into the comments made during Senate committee discussion of the legislation, it's important to note that any bill with language like this is anti-somebody: "a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist."
In other words, there are counselors out there who are making religious judgments about their clients. So the bill is designed to protect counselors who are against someone, but who are these mystery clients?
The comments during the Senate Health and Welfare Committee meetings give us all the clues we need to conclude that the bill is about the LGBT community.
Let's start with the comments made on January 27. You can find the full video here.
The Gay Agenda? The sponsor makes comments about counselors being "targeted" around minute 4:43 and targeted "by some agenda" around minute 10:20. Those comments were repeated on February 10 around minute 34:33, which you can find in this video. We never learn exactly who has this sinister agenda of suing counselors as a sort of activist hobby. But conjuring a bogeyman with an "agenda" is an old tactic used specifically against the LGBT community to divert discussion from the discrimination we face. If you don't find this Wikipedia entry credible as a source on the history of the phrase, then read the sources that went into making the article.
Lifestyle Choice: Back to the January 27 video, another senator makes the analogy of "lifestyle choice." If you're not LGBT and you're not part of the religious right, maybe you've never heard of discussions of gender and sexuality being described as a lifestyle choice rather than sexual orientation or gender identity. But the difference matters and it's a common way for social conservatives to discuss the LGBT community. Why does it matter? It matters to social conservatives because things that are choices can be judged as moral or immoral. Internet searches are rife with the connection. Here's just one item.
The Truth Emerges: In a few rare moments during discussion of the bill, senators let the cat out of the bag as to who is really targeted by the legislation. On January 27 around minute 8:45 of the video the committee chairman references those couples who are now allowed to marry because of the Supreme Court decision. And on the February 10 video around minute 37:28 the bill sponsor briefly mentions counselors who want to provide couples therapy, just not "same-sex couples therapy."
Fight back: It is urgent that the LGBT community and our allies fight this bill, even as amended. It is up next in the House Health Subcommittee on Tuesday. Join us in RED for that event. RSVP here. You can also sign the petition on the bill that generates an email to each member of the House Health Subcommittee at this link.