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Tennessee Gov. Haslam signs ‘religious freedom’ bill allowing counselors to reject LGBT clients

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Tennessee’s Republican governor on Wednesday signed a law allowing mental health counselors to refuse service to patients on “sincerely held principles,” the latest in a string of U.S. state measures criticized as discriminatory against the gay community.

Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law three weeks after it was approved by the legislature. It goes into effect immediately.

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“The substance of this bill doesn’t address a group, issue or belief system,” Haslam said in a statement.

“Rather, it allows counselors – just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers – to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle.”

An earlier version of the bill had allowed counselors to refuse service to patients on religious grounds, but it was amended to remove any direct reference to religion.

The law protects therapists and counselors from legal action when they cite their personal principles in refusing service, despite a provision in the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics barring members from such denials of service.

“This measure is rooted in the dangerous misconception that religion can be used as a free pass to discriminate,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said in a statement.

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Weinberg called the bill one in a series of “attacks” on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community following last year’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down state bans on gay marriage.

Haslam had previously told Nashville Public Radio he was considering the effect the legislation may have on Tennessee and its citizens, as laws criticized as discriminatory against the LGBT community has drawn increased scrutiny in several states.

In South Carolina, a number of companies including PayPal Holdings and Deutsche Bank have canceled plans to add jobs in the state after it passed a law requiring people to use bathrooms or locker rooms in schools and other public facilities that match the gender on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

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Haslam said he decided to sign the counseling bill in part because it forbids denial of service to patients in danger of harming themselves or others.

Earlier this month, Haslam disappointed some Christians in the state when he vetoed legislation that would have made the Bible Tennessee’s official book. The governor said that violated the U.S. Constitution.

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(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Alan Crosby)


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GOP ex-congressman calls on Justice Roberts to override Republican effort to block witnesses

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In a column for the New York Times, former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK) and Georgetown law professor Joshua A. Geltzer urged Supreme Court Justice John Roberts to intercede and demand Senate Republicans allow witnesses in light of the latest John Bolton bombshell.

Following a New Times report that stated "President Trump directly tied the withholding of almost $400 million in American security aid to investigations that he sought from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript of a book that John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, wrote about his time in the White House," the three took to the Times editorial page to implore Roberts to step in.

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Anxious Senate Republicans face a massive blowback after John Bolton bombshell

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The impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump continues this week, with the president's defense team making the case for his acquittal followed by questions from senators. The president's lawyers opened their presentation on Saturday with a mere two hours of arguments.

This article was originally published at Salon

It's clear they are anxious to get this over with so that the Republicans can bring the "vindicated" Trump into the House chamber like a conquering hero on Feb. 4 for the State of the Union address. They certainly don't want him to deliver it in the middle of his impeachment trial. If the incontinence Trump has displayed on his Twitter feed over the last few days is any indication, there's a good chance he'll leap off the dais and try to strangle House manager Adam Schiff with his bare hands.

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Senate GOP will be accessories to obstruction if they shoot down a move by Justice Roberts to call witnesses: Ex-prosecutor

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On Monday, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) must motion for Chief Justice John Roberts to call witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial — and that if Senate Republicans vote down this decision, they will be "accessories" to obstruction of justice.

Schiff must make a motion to CJ Roberts for witnesses. As I’ve been saying all along, if Roberts grants the motion for witnesses (he will) & the Rs vote to overrule him (they might) that will (de facto) be obstruction of justice & accessory after the fact. https://t.co/yQfUTga7gd

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