Nashville Mayor Wants Visitors to Know Her City Welcomes All, Despite New Anti-LGBT LawBy Megan Clayton • June 3, 2016 • 6:47 pm
Last week, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry strongly condemned a dangerous new Tennessee law that allows counselors to refuse helping patients if doing so conflicts with that counselor’s “strongly held principles.”
At a press conference last Friday Mayor Barry detailed how the new law is hurting the city’s economy and sending the message that Nashville is not a welcoming city—something that could not be further from the truth, she said:
“I am deeply concerned about the loss of revenue to our city because of action taken by the state legislature. My message to the community of folks who want to visit Nashville is, ‘Come to Nashville.’ We are a warm and welcoming place, and we really don’t want to the city to be punished for things the state may do. So, we encourage people to still consider [coming] to Nashville. At the end of the day, we generate a tremendous amount of money in Davidson County that the entire state benefits from, and I want us to continue to be that revenue generator and that economic engine that keeps Tennessee a great place to be”
In the month since Governor Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1556/House Bill 1840 into law, the American Counseling Association, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Centers for Spiritual Living have all canceled conferences that were scheduled to be held in Nashville this summer.
Early last month, the American Counseling Association pulled its annual conference, which was scheduled to be held in Nashville next year. The loss of that conference, which was expected to draw 3,000 attendees, could cost Nashville $4 million in combined local and state tax revenue and an estimated local economic impact of $10 million.
American Counseling Association CEO Richard Yep called the new law the worst counseling-related law he had seen in his 30 years with the Association:
“Of all the state legislation impacting counseling during my 30 years with ACA, the new Tennessee law based on Senate Bill 1556/House Bill 1840 is the worst. … If the new law is allowed to stand, we cannot in good conscience bring business to Tennessee. It is an affront to our profession and we must stand firm to prevent other states from enacting a law like HB 1840. Therefore, our annual meeting will be rescheduled for another venue outside of Tennessee.”
Mental health care providers in Tennessee are also organizing. In response to the new law, the Tennessee Equality Project has started compiling a list—under the name “Counseling Unconditionally”— of providers who pledge not to discriminate. Some providers are also taking it upon themselves to leave practices where discrimination might be tolerated.
Other organizations were distressed by the new law but had not yet made preparations to relocate. Jon Glassmeyer, who plays with the Nashville Grizzlies and helped organize last weekend’s Bingham Cup—a gay rugby tournament—said it was too late to move the tournament, which he estimated brought $1 million to Nashville’s economy. He reiterated Mayor Barry’s sentiment that Nashville itself was welcoming, regardless of state law.
However, if this law stays in effect it’s clear Nashville and the entire state risk losing more economic activity.
Freedom for All Americans wants to reiterate its belief that no one should be denied important mental health care services just because of who they are. We urge the legislature to repeal this harmful law as soon as possible.