Call it discrimination light. In the week of the Orlando mass slayings at a gay club, perhaps by a man conflicted by his sexuality, an Arkansas legislative panel signed off on a rule to allow psychiatric counselors to refuse to serve someone with different religious beliefs.
Not to worry. John Lyon of the Arkansas News Bureau reports “the transfer could occur only after careful consideration and consultation, and the counselor or therapist could not abandon a patient, the proposal states.”
This is modeled on a marginally tougher Tennessee law that is among a growing torrent of legislation allowing discrimination in virtually every field of endeavor against gay people. In the name of religion (meaning “Christian” here in Dixie; others are pretenders.) The problem:
Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said in an interview the proposed change to the code of ethics “essentially gives a license to discriminate in the name of religion, and I think that people may see it as a green light to go ahead and not take any patient that they object to for some reason.”
“I’m particularly worried about school counselors not wanting to talk to, say, a suicidal gay student having trouble with his sexual orientation,” she said. “That is a very serious problem. Kids commit suicide because they are struggling with their sexual orientation, and I would just hate to see any delay in the health care of a person in need.”
I know. Would a gay person really want to be served by a homophobe?
Bad as this is, it only adds another marginal level of discrimination to the organic discrimination in Arkansas law against LGBT people. By absence of protection, it is legal in Arkansas to refuse to hire or rent an apartment or sell a pizza to a gay person if you find their sexual orientation or gender expression contrary to your religious beliefs. Is specific protection for medical doctors who wish to discriminate in the offing? Don’t scoff. Under “conscience” protection many medical institutions are already refusing to provide health-saving services to women.
Speaking of which: The same committee that supported discrimination by counselors against gay people also approved the rule in which abortion regulations must refer to a fetus henceforth as an unborn child, from zygote up.
Those of you who thought the U.S. Constitution prohibited state establishment of religion forgot about the Arkansas exception. It’s in there somewhere, isn’t it?