Surprise. The Legislative Council delayed action today on a new rule by the board that regulates counselors to give psychiatric counselors a “conscience” opt-out for treating people with whom they have philosophical disagreements.
The rule has been described as a compromise of an overtly anti-gay rule passed in Tennessee. It’s another in a string of “conscience” or religious-pretext obstacles being thrown up — particularly in Southern states — to allow discrimination against LGBT people.
An AP account quotes a legislator, Rep. Andy Davis, as saying the review was deferred because a rule that wasn’t expected to be controversial had become controversial.
It was always controversial. Just as the legislation that allows religion as a pretext for discrimination against gay people in employment, housing and public services was controversial. But that didn’t stop the Republican-dominated legislature from approving it or the Republican governor from signing it.
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.”
Though no elected Arkansas Republican has yet sent out words of sympathy to the LGBT community over the targeted slaughter in Orlando, maybe this is a tacit gesture: “Let’s at least wait until everyone’s buried before we pass another anti-gay measure.”