The American Counseling Association (ACA) announced on Tuesday that it was canceling its 2017 conference in Nashville, Tennessee because of a state law allowing counselors to reject LGBT clients, the Tennessean reported.
"Of all the legislation impacting counseling during my 30 years with ACA, the new Tennessee law based on Senate Bill 1556, House Bill 1840 is the worst," the group's chief executive officer, Richard Yep, said in a video announcing the move.
The law, which was signed into effect by Gov. Bill Haslam (R) late last month, allows counselors to turn away potential clients based on "sincerely held principles."
Haslam said at the time that the measure "doesn't address a group, issue or belief system," and the bill's co-sponsor, state Sen. Jack Johnson (R), said the idea was proposed to him by counselors.
But the bill was quickly criticized by both civil rights advocates and the ACA, who rebuffed Johnson's allegation that a non-discrimination clause that specifically includes gender identity and sexuality was only inserted into the organization's code of ethics after the bill was proposed.
"We firmly believe that by relocating from Tennessee, ACA is taking a stand against this discriminatory law, and we remain committed in the battle to ensure that this harmful legislation does not spread to other states," ACA president Thelma Duffey said in a statement on the group's website.
The ACA, which currently has more than 55,000 members, is currently taking bids for a replacement site for next year's conference.
Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation president Butch Spyridon told the Tennessean he was not surprised by the ACA's decision.
"This cancellation is the second one and is likely just the tip of the iceberg when you consider all the other groups that won’t consider us now," he said. "It is regrettable that all the hard work and investment to make Nashville a top destination has been unnecessarily undone by politics."
Watch Yep's remarks, as posted by the ACA on Tuesday, below.