Religious counseling law challenged in lawsuit

Two gay rights activists have filed a lawsuit challenging a new Tennessee law allowing mental health therapists to refuse treatment to patients based on the therapists’ religious or personal beliefs is unconstitutional, reports the News-Sentinel.

Bleu Copas of Anderson County and Caleb Laieski of Virginia filed the complaint Tuesday in Anderson County Chancery Court.

Sought is an injunction to keep the law from being applied and a judgment voiding the statute. The legal action was filed against Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed the controversial bill into law.

Both men are identified as homosexuals in the complaint, and Laieski is described as a “national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights activist” who lives in Alexandria, Va.

The new law “is a matter of great public concern,” and LGBT individuals “are singled out for discriminatory treatment,” according to the complaint. “There is no other group which could conceivably be the target of the statute,” it continues.

“The effect of the statute is to give counselors and therapists an open door to discriminate against people of certain protected classes, specifically LGBT individuals and couples,” the legal action avers.

“Mr. Copas and Mr. Laieski, along with all other LGBT individuals, cannot be treated differently through legislation than the rest of the population,” it continues.

…Haslam has defended his decision to sign the bill into law, saying professionals should have the right to decide if their clients’ goals don’t match their own personal beliefs.