Religious counseling bill could offset $8M subsidy of ‘Nashville’ TV show?

Gov. Bill Haslam included $8 million in the coming year’s state budget to subsidize the TV show “Nashville” (previous post HERE) and it was approved by the Legislature. Now, a Fox News entertainment writer is speculating that Haslam’s signature on a bill allowing therapists to refuse counseling to persons based on sexual orientation could lead to cancellation of the series.

ABC’s Nashville has received deserved praise for its handling of Will Lexington’s (Chris Carmack) struggles with his sexuality, and his whole coming out storyline. But now, some of the show’s stars find themselves in the middle of a real-life battle over a recently-passed Tennessee law that discriminates against LGBT people.

House Bill 1840, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law this week, gives therapists and other mental health professionals the right to refuse to treat patients whose lifestyles go against the professional’s “sincerely held principals.”

When the bill was still under review, Nashville star Connie Britton spoke out against it, telling The Hollywood Reporter: “I shoot a TV show in Tennessee, and honestly, if they proceed with this, I’m not necessarily going to feel comfortable working there. That is a tricky situation because of course we employ a lot of people in the state, and you certainly don’t want to have to interrupt that, but at the same time, this is the only way that we can have our voices be heard.”

Added Carmack — who, according to THR, is reconsidering buying property in Nashville because of the law: “We said, ‘Do we want to live in a place like this?’ … I guarantee you that there are many more individuals like myself and my fiance who are potential long-term transplants from all over, who are saying, ‘Is this a place I would want to call home, a place that would write this sort of thing into legislation?'”

A “tricky situation,” indeed. ABC has yet to renew Nashville for a fifth season, but if it does, Carmack and Britton’s comments beg the question: does the show’s cast and crew have a responsibility to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak, and refuse to shoot in the state? Certainly Britton’s comments, more so than Carmack’s, will be perceived as an empty threat if the show continues to film there. Perhaps rather than pulling production from the state, the cast and crew of Nashville can use their influence to raise awareness and money for LGBT rights issues, and fight the good fight from within.

On the other hand, if ABC isn’t planning to renew Nashville, this could be a nice opportunity for the network to put an activist label on its decision. Particularly because it would be difficult if not impossible for the show to relocate elsewhere, since so many scenes are tied to actual Nashville hotspots, including the Bluebird Caf and the Grand Ole Opry — not to mention the local musicians who provide much of the show’s music.

Note: Post on Haslam signing the bill is HERE.