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National LGBT News Updates

August 2016


Washington Blade: Trump to Appear at Anti-LGBT Event

Right Wing Watch: Trump to Address Extremist Anti-LGBT Summit in Orlando

LGBTQ Nation: Trump to Address Anti-LGBT Group


Voice of America: The LGBT Debate

Health and Religion Discussed at LGBT Forum

US News: American Culture War

Millennials Support Full LGBT Rights

Rolling Stone: Worst States for LGBT People


Yahoo News: Mass Shooting in Orlando

CNN: Orlando Shooting Act of Hate

NY Times: Massacre at Gay Nightclub

USA Today: Orlando Nightclub Shooting


ACA Cancels Nashville Conference

May 2016


According to the Associated Press, The American Counseling Association has cancelled its plan to hold a conference in Nashville next year in protest of Tennessee passing a counseling law that allows therapists to decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles. The ACA made the announcement on May 10 that it had cancelled the already booked expo in the Music City.

The ACA, which has condemned Tennessee's new law as a "hate bill" that discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, has called the legislation an unprecedented attack on its profession. The organization says no other state has passed such a law.  Supporters of the law have said that it keeps the government from forcing people to counsel others to act in ways that conflict with a therapist's moral beliefs.



US News: ACA Sends Message by Cancelling Nashville Conference

Huffington Post: ACA Protests Tennessee's Anti-Gay Law

Fox17 News: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference to Protest Religious Counseling Law

Nashville Post: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference

Nashville Biz Journal: New Tenn Hate Bill Costs Nashville a Convention

Tennessean: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference Over Therapist Law

LGBTQ Nation: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference



2017 Conference Will Not Be Held in Nashville

May 2016


On April 27, Tennessee became the latest state to sign into law discriminatory “religious freedom” legislation targeting the counseling profession and LGBTQ community, permitting counselors to deny services and refer clients based on the provider’s “strongly held principles."  This is a clear violation of the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) Code of Ethics.


Video: Richard Yep Announcing That ACA Conference Will Not Be Held in Nashville

Official Announcement Regarding 2017 ACA Conference

ALCA Letter to ACA


In light of the passage of SB 1556/HB 1840, ACA members have been very vocal in sharing their opinions on the location of the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo, originally scheduled for Nashville, Tennessee.

After thoughtful discussion and careful deliberation, including taking into account the viewpoints shared by ACA members, the Governing Council made the difficult—and courageous—decision on behalf of our members to move the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo to a venue outside of the state of Tennessee.

We firmly believe 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.  We also pledge to work with the counselors and citizens of Tennessee to raise awareness of the danger of this new law, as well as seek ways to support the Tennessee Counseling Association.

ACA is currently seeking proposals from cities that can accommodate its space and housing requirements. More information on the location of the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo will be released as it becomes available.  We thank you for your patience and continued support of ACA, and we hope to see you at our 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo.


ACA CEO: Dr. Richard Yep
ACA President: Dr. Thelma Duffey



Video: Richard Yep Announcing That ACA Conference Will Not Be Held in Nashville

Official Announcement Regarding 2017 ACA Conference

US News: ACA Sends Message by Cancelling Nashville Conference

Huffington Post: ACA Protests Tennessee's Anti-Gay Law

Fox17 News: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference to Protest Religious Counseling Law

Nashville Post: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference

Nashville Biz Journal: New Tenn Hate Bill Costs Nashville a Convention

Tennessean: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference Over Therapist Law

LGBTQ Nation: ACA Cancels Nashville Conference


Tennessee Governor Signs Anti-Gay Bill into Law

May 2016


Despite protests from the counseling profession and other concerned citizens, the Governor of Tennessee has decided to sign into law a bill that would legalize discrimination in the counseling profession. 


Gov. Bill Haslam made a backward move this week when he signed into law the bill that lets mental health counselors reject LGBT patients because of a professional's own "sincerely held principles."  The bill was reaction to the national focus on same-sex marriage and transgender rights, and was one of several right-wing measures undertaken by our lawmakers this year to excuse the homophobia surrounding one of the newest rights in our land.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini on Thursday called the law Haslam signed "dangerous," and she charged that Tennessee is being run by "an extremist Republican majority drunk with power."  She's right — in more ways than one. It isn't just dangerous because it makes it harder for gays and lesbians to get counseling, especially in rural areas where there are fewer counselors.  It is also dangerous for what the intolerant message portends for our state's future business image.

The American Counseling Association, which fought the legislation that it dubbed the "Hate Bill 1840," now says on its website that "in light of recent legislative actions in Tennessee, ACA is currently weighing options" about its planned 2017 conference and expo in Nashville. And Washington Secretary of State Kym Wyman, a Republican, announced that due in part to the new Tennessee law, neither she nor her staff will be attending this summer's National Association of Secretaries summer meeting in Nashville.

Haslam last week rightly vetoed a proposal to make the Bible the official state book. He told NPR it "trivializes the Bible." He also successfully urged lawmakers to withdraw a so-called bathroom bill, Tennessee's version of legislation that would require transgender students to use restrooms according to their gender assigned at birth rather than one that matches the gender with which they identify. But the governor dropped the ball on the counseling bill.

Therapists, like emergency room doctors, work for their patients. They should leave their own 'beliefs' out of the work that belongs to those patients and clients. Next our legislators will be writing laws excusing various professions from working with blacks or Muslims or uppity women wearing tie-dye skirts.

(From: Times Free Press)




Tenn Governor Should Have Vetoed Counselor Bill

Anti-Gay Legislation in Tennessee: Wrong Move & Wrong Message for Mental Health Providers

Tennessee Needs Lesson on Separation of Church and Hate

Anti-Gay Law Costly for North Carolina

ALCA Letter to ACA


Message From ACA CEO Regarding Tennessee Bill

April 2016


With Governor Bill Haslam’s signature this week, Tennessee became the latest state to sign into law discriminatory “religious freedom” legislation targeting the LGBTQ community. Tennessee’s HB 1840/SB 1556 permits counselors to deny services and refer clients based on the provider’s “sincerely held principles.” Since this bill was signed and the law went into effect, we’ve received numerous emails, calls, and messages from members voicing their concerns and questioning misinformation. We want to ensure you—and all our members—that your voice is being heard and viewpoint considered. We are working diligently to ensure that at the center of this debate, our priorities lie with the clients and communities you serve. Not only does this law invalidate ACA’s Code of Ethics—making Tennessee the only state in the nation to do so— it limits the basic services clients have access to, many of whom live in rural areas with few alternatives. We will continue our efforts to ensure laws like this do not become the national standard, and that counselors who improperly or unethically refuse services to clients in need continue to be held accountable. We ask that if you have a question, comment, or concern, that you email In the coming weeks, we will share more information about our efforts and look forward to continuing to provide you with resources to serve clients and communities safely and effectively. Further, we ask for your patience as our Governing Council and ACA leadership decide our next steps regarding the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo, which is slated to be held in Nashville, Tennessee.



Richard Yep, CAE, FASAE

CEO of the American Counseling Association


Tennessee's Anti-Gay Legislation


ACA Condemns Tennessee's Anti-Gay Legislation

April 2016


ALCA members were alerted to the news about pending anti-gay legislation in Tennessee (HB 1840 / SB 1556) and the upcoming ACA Conference scheduled to take place in Nashville in 2017.  ACA has issued its opposition to this hateful legislation and is deliberating as to its response regarding the upcoming conference. This bill, which has now been passed by the Tennessee House and Senate and awaits the Governor’s signature, if signed into law, would allow counselors in Tennessee to disregard parts of the ACA Code of Ethics and essentially permit discrimination. Specifically, the bill tells counselors to deny services and refer clients based on their own strongly held religious beliefs.


Counselors in Alabama, including ALCA members and ALGBTICAL members, are urged to please send a message directly to the Governor of Tennessee, asking him to veto HB 1840 / SB 1556. Let him know that signing this bill would set a dangerous precedent for mental health providers across the country. Citizens of all states can make their voices heard and send a clear message that this hateful legislation will not be tolerated in Tennessee or any other state.

Telephone Number: 615-741-2001
E-Mail Address:
Facebook Address:

ALGBTICAL wholeheartedly endorses the American Counseling Association’s condemnation of the vote by the Tennessee House Health Committee approving this measure. As stated by ACA, “The needs of the client are always a top priority, according to universally taught principles in counselor education, rather than the personally held beliefs of the counselor. This tenet is a civic and professional responsibility for those who are professional counselors. The ACA Code of Ethics clearly states that professional counselors may not deny services to a client regardless of that person’s age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law. Counselors put aside their own needs in order to understand those of their clients. This bill is an unprecedented attack on ACA’s Code of Ethics. It is also an unwanted and unnecessary blow to the counseling profession and those who benefit from the services of a professional counselor.”


ALCA Letter to ACA


ACA is calling this bill a “hate” bill. ACA, in saying that this legislation is in direct violation of ACA's Code of Ethics, is urging Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to veto Hate Bill 1840. ACA has also stated, that, in light of these recent legislative actions in Tennessee, they are currently weighing options regarding the location of the 2017 ACA Conference scheduled for Nashville.

According to ACA's Director of Government Affairs, Art Terrazas: “Hate Bill 1840 is nothing but a way for hateful legislators to codify their prejudicial beliefs. The fact that they chose to change the bill from permitting counselors to deny services based on their own 'strongly held religious beliefs' to permitting counselors to deny services based on their own 'strongly held personal beliefs,' proves that they want to allow for even greater levels of discrimination. If Governor Haslam has any sense of public duty, he must stand up and veto Hate Bill 1840. This legislation is discriminatory by nature, and is an unnecessary government intrusion that will likely result in costly unintended consequences for the state of Tennessee.”

The bill tells counselors to discriminate. If passed, everything would be fair game, according to ACA. If counselors don’t agree with someone's sexual identify, they can turn them away. If counselors are offended by someone's hijab, they can turn them away. If counselors don’t agree with someone's feminist stance, they can turn them away. This bill is extremely dangerous for Tennesseans of all walks of life.

In addition to this important statement from ACA is the current deliberation over what to do about the 2017 ACA Conference scheduled to be held in Nashville. What should the appropriate response from ACA be? Should ACA cancel its conference in Nashville and pull out of Tennessee in protest? We are watching for the outcome of this deliberation with great interest and scrutiny.

ALGBTICAL President, Michael Lebeau, stated, "Much discussion about this matter has been underway here in Alabama among the board members of ALGBTICAL and I must report that we consider this issue to be of grave importance. Any response to this subject must be strong and resolute. There is no room for compromise on this issue. Without any reservation, we strongly oppose this legislation as a direct violation to the ACA Code of Ethics. And we regard any counselor in favor of such a ruling as not fit to practice as a counselor. Furthermore, we stand in fierce opposition to such measures and support any and all protests to Tennessee’s anti-gay legislation."

Another ALGBTICAL officer stated, “Any argument for this bill or attempt to use logic is untenable. It is a violation of our ethics pure and simple. If this bill allowed service to be refused to women, people of color, veteran status, or any other part of a person’s identity, we would not even be having this conversation.”

Yet another ALGBTICAL officer said, “This strikes at the heart of the fundamentals of counselor responsibility, training, duties, and ethics. We should strongly encourage the Alabama Counseling Association to put out a statement supporting the language of its mother association. This ridiculous bill, without regard to consequence other than to pander to homophobe constituents, which seems to be an ongoing childish behavior in both state and federal legislatures, would immediately put Tennessee counselors in a position to violate their core ethics and their licensure laws. ALCA needs to be on board loud and proud.”




Anti-Gay Legislation in Tennessee: Wrong Move & Wrong Message for Mental Health Providers

Tennessee Needs Lesson on Separation of Church and Hate

Huffington Post: Tennessee's Anti-Gay Counseling Bill

Advocate: Tennessee's Anti-Gay Counseling Bill is Dangerous

New Civil Rights: Tenn Bill Allows Therapists to Refuse Services to LGBT People

Parody Video: Tennessee as Anti-Gay State

NBA: No All-Star Game for North Carolina if Anti-Gay Law Isn’t Changed

Michael Sam Slams Missouri’s Religious Objection Bill

Discriminatory North Carolina Law

Anti-Gay Law Costly for North Carolina


Georgia Governor Vetoes Religious Liberty Bill

March 2016


Under increasing pressure from major corporations that do business in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal announced he will veto a bill that critics say would have curtailed the rights of Georgia's LGBT community. House Bill 757 would have given faith-based organizations in Georgia the option to deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Supporters said the measure was meant to protect religious freedom, while opponents have described it as "anti-LGBT" and "appalling."

Speaking to reporters, Deal, a Republican, said he didn't think the bill was necessary.  "I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives," he said.  He said he was not reacting to pressure from the faith-based community or responding to the business community, which warned Georgia could lose jobs if he signed the bill.

His decision, he said, was "about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people. ... I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason I will veto House Bill 757."

The move comes as controversy swirls over a swiftly passed law in North Carolina that members of the LGBT community view as anti-gay. A lawsuit was filed against the state's governor, among others, calling for a judge to rule the law unconstitutional. A number of businesses that have interests in North Carolina also have denounced the law.

A Georgia legislator who supported HB 757, state Sen. Mike Crane, called for a special session to override Deal's veto, saying it's an example of how corporations and lobbyists buy influence with "the political class."  Both chambers of the Republican-dominated Georgia Legislature passed the bill a few weeks ago. Other versions of the legislation had failed to pass in previous years.

More than a dozen states have approved similar laws in the past year.

The proposed Georgia law would have ensured that pastors could not be forced to perform same-sex marriages. It also would have allowed faith-based organizations to fire, to refuse to hire, or to refuse services to someone if doing so violates their faith.

"We thank Gov. Deal for doing the right thing," said Matt McTighe, executive director for Freedom for All Americans. "The governor understands that while our freedom of religion is of critical importance, it doesn't mean there's a need for harmful exemptions that can lead to discrimination."

Karen Slappey, vicar at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Midtown Atlanta, said Deal surprised her.  "I thought his press conference speech was spot on!," she said in an email to CNN. "I love that he discussed the historical stance on freedom of religion of the founding fathers, his own faith, and that Georgia was full of loving and welcoming people."

In his statement, Deal said:  "In light of our history, I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the 'hands-off' admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take."

(From CNN / Ralph Ellis, Emanuella Grinberg, Devon Sayers, Nick Valencia)



CNN: Georgia Governor Vetoes Religious Liberty Bill


Legislative Updates

Magic City Acceptance Project

Generous Faith Conference

November 2015


The Magic City Acceptance Project’s Communities of Faith Committee and the Human Rights Campaign Alabama presented their inaugural A Generous Faith: Walking With Our LGBTQ+ Community conference on November 5-6 at Temple Emanu-El and Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham.

This statewide convening of interfaith leaders, both clergy and lay people, was deliberately planned to be accessible for faith leaders whose personal and congregational journeys will be varied as they relate to understanding, acceptance, and/or advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying (LGBTQ+) community members.

On hand fof the event was Rev. Roland Stringfellow - who works with congregations on LGBTQ inclusion as the Director of Ministerial Outreach for the African-American Roundtable, a program of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Sexuality on the campus of Pacific School of Religion - to offer the Thursday evening plenary session at Temple Emanu-El. On Friday morning, participants engaged in a day of conversation and breakout sessions at Highlands UMC based on three different theological and communal tracks: Understanding, Acceptance, and Advocacy.

Breakout sessions included a panel discussion with LGBTQ+ people of faith, a training session using Caitlin Ryan's Family Acceptance Project material in your congregations, scriptural exploration, and coalition building.

This conference sought to address...
…being in a ministry with LGBTQ+ persons, even if your community of faith doesn’t agree about every issue.
…moving your community of faith towards greater acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ+ persons.
…figuring out how draw on spiritual and theological resources for advocacy with LGBTQ+ persons.

Please contact Eva Walton Kendrick at with any questions about this and future conferences.


Magic City Acceptance Project Website
Human Rights Campaign Alabama Website
Generous Faith Conference Website

Magic City Acceptance Project

New Birmingham Center for LGBTQ Youth


August 2014


The Magic City Acceptance Center is the first LGBTQ youth center in Birmingham, and the second in the state of Alabama. It was made possible thanks to a $50,000 grant that the Elton John AIDS Foundation gave to the Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO) last December.  The Magic City Acceptance Center is developing a volunteer counseling program to serve LGBTQ youth, ages 13-24 and is looking for licensed professional counselors to help!  MCAC opened in April 2014 and provides wellness workshops, art programs, special and seasonal events, support groups and more to LGBTQ youth, ages 13-24 in the greater Birmingham area. The counseling program is projected to begin in October of 2014 and include LPCs with experience working with youth and the LGBTQ community. There will be a screening process for all interested applicants and selected individuals will be asked to commit to 1-2 hours each week of free counseling to LGBTQ-identified youth. They are asking for a 3 month commitment.


Counselors seeking more information about this opportunity, should contact Amanda Keller at




New Center for LGBTQ Youth in Birmingham

Magic City Acceptance Center Facebook Page


School Counselor Outs Student to His Mother


December 2013


Huffington Post/Gay Voices recently ran a story from an anonymous teen detailing how his school counselor violated confidentiality and outed him to his mother.  The article is worth reading in its entirety. The story, told in first person, begins with this scene:


When I entered the living room, I saw my whole family there. I felt like I was at an intervention. I sat down on the couch. There was an awkward silence in the room. “I went to your school today and I talked to your guidance counselor,” my mom said.  For a moment, I was relieved that no one in my family was dead. But I could tell by her tone I had done something.  “She told me you were gay, and that you had sexual relations with another boy.”


I was shocked! I didn’t know how my guidance counselor found out about my sexual encounter. At that moment, I felt as if my world came crashing down onto me. I was afraid that my mom would kick me out the house. All of a sudden, the environment of my living room went from a quiescent, comforting area to a harsh, judgmental arena. “You know, it’s a sin to be gay!” my aunt yelled. “The Bible doesn’t accept homosexuality!”  “I don’t want a faggot for a brother! What will people say about me?” my brother screamed.  “Society makes people believe that being gay is a new trend. But, it’s not! You will go to hell! I will never have a son as a faggot!” bellowed my mom as she started to cry.




Huff Post: Guidance Counselor Outs Student to Mother


Open Letter to Counseling Student


July 2013


ALGBTICAL received the following message from a graduate student in one of Alabama's counselor education programs.  The student and the school will remain anonymous.  Apparently, the student, in establishing membership with ALCA, inadvertently also signed up for membership in ALGBTICAL. 




Here is the response sent to the student from the members of the ALGBTICAL Executive Board:


Dear Counseling Student...


We felt compelled, if not obligated, to reply to your recent e-mail message requesting to be removed from our distribution list.  The emphatic manner in which you expressed yourself certainly caught our attention and merited a thoughtful response.


We would like to first clarify that you knowingly and intentionally chose to become a dues-paying member of the ALGBTICAL division of the Alabama Counseling Association.  We assume you are a counseling professional or a counseling student who joined this organization deliberately and for some reason.


Most counselors join ALGBTICAL because they wish to learn more about gay and lesbian concerns.  Many join to learn more about being an effective advocate on behalf of their gay and lesbian clients or students.


Among the many benefits of being a member of ALGBTICAL is receiving updated information through our newsletter and listserv announcements.  Through these resources members receive notices about our website, our workshops, our events, and various other relevant activities and reports.


Regardless of your setting or specialty, we should remind you that ALGBTICAL is an official division of the Alabama Counseling Association.  Its officers and members are competent professionals dedicated to ethical and compassionate service to its clients.  Any material you receive from ALGBTICAL is in keeping with its professional purpose and consistent with the ethical guidelines of ALCA and the American Counseling Association.


In your message to us, in which you conveyed your view of gay marriage along with your personal religious beliefs, you seemed to express an attitude of contempt that could potentially translate into an unethical regard for your gay and lesbian clients.


We understand that you have a right to your personal opinions and religious beliefs.


Our concern is that you might hold certain biases that could be seen as inappropriate for someone in the counseling profession.  Our concern is that you could pose a threat or possibly cause harm to your gay or lesbian clients or students.


How would you regard one of your students if he or she has two mothers or two fathers?  How would you provide relationship counseling to a same-sex couple?  How would you respond to a client who told you he or she was gay?  How would you address the needs of a gay or lesbian student or client? 


If you were an average member of society, you might have the luxury to retreat to your personal prejudices and religious upbringing as your excuse for not dealing with certain individuals or issues.  But, as a counselor, your professional expectations would be far different and such bigotry would be regarded as highly unethical.


We would encourage you to become familiar with the ACA Code of Ethics and review it carefully to determine if you are able, in good conscience, to adhere to these professional standards.  If your personal values are at odds with these guidelines, you might want to consider another line of work.


If you choose to pursue the counseling field, we might strongly suggest that you add to your faith some measure of knowledge.  When you find disdain for some populations or subjects, it is your professional obligation to become more informed and empathetic.  To do otherwise would be to continue to engage in discriminatory, harmful, and unethical behavior, which would ultimately render you unfit for this vocation.


If ALGBTICAL can be of any assistance to you in clarifying the professional expectations of counselors regarding gay and lesbian issues, please allow us the opportunity to provide you whatever resources you might need.


In the meantime, we hope you realize how seriously we take our role in ensuring the ethical behavior of all counselors and in safeguarding our gay and lesbian clients from the harmful acts of members of the counseling profession.



ALGBTICAL Executive Board

Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama


Resolution in Ward vs. EMU Case


December 2012


Eastern Michigan University has resolved the case of Julea Ward v. Board of Regents of Eastern Michigan University.  Resolution of Julea Ward case leaves programs and policies intact in the Counselor Education program at Eastern Michigan University.  At stake in the litigation was the University’s right to train the students in its counseling program to treat all those it serves equally and in accordance with the ACA Code of Ethics, which requires that counselors do not allow their own values to interfere with their treatment of clients.


“The resolution of the lawsuit leaves the University’s policies, programs, and curricular requirements intact,” said Walter Kraft, vice president for communications of Eastern Michigan University. “The faculty retains its right to establish, in its learned judgment, the curriculum and program requirements for the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University.


“EMU has made the decision that it is in the best interest of its students and the taxpayers of the state of Michigan to resolve the litigation rather than continue to spend money on a costly trial. The matter has been resolved in the amount of $75,000. The University’s insurance company, M.U.S.I.C. (Michigan Universities Self-Insurance Corporation), will pay the cost of the settlement.”


Ms. Ward was a student in the University’s Graduate School Counseling Program, where she was training to become a counselor in the K-12 school system. The Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on Ms. Ward’s behalf on April 2, 2009. The ADF lawsuit sought to stop the University from enforcing its policies prohibiting discrimination and requiring the students in its counseling program to counsel students in conformance with the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association.


The ADF instead asked a court to rule that students have a right to decline to counsel any individual or group of individuals if counseling them conflicts with their religious beliefs. In this case, the ADF asked the court to order the University to change its counseling curriculum to allow counselors in training to be able to refer clients elsewhere rather than counsel them on issues related to a same sex relationship, pre-marital sex, or pregnancy termination.




Court Notes for Julea Ward Vs. East Michigan University 


Julea Ward Anti-Gay Bill Passes in Michigan


Legalized Discrimination Based on Religious Belief

HB 5040


June 12, 2012


Julea Ward was dismissed from a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University in 2009 after she refused to counsel a gay student based on her Christian religious beliefs and, according to school officials, declined to work with the university to resolve the issue. Michigan's House passed a bill on June 12 that would prohibit the state's public universities from taking such action in the future. The bill HB 5040 is being called the "Julea Ward freedom of conscience act" in honor of Ward.



It would forbid public colleges and universities from discriminating against or disciplining students participating in counseling, social work and psychology programs "because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services."


While the legislation has gained the support of the Michigan Family Forum and the state's Attorney General, it has also attracted a diverse coalition opposing the bill. Equality Michigan, an LGBT group said on their website that the bill "threatens clients seeking counseling with rejection based on their race, relationship status, and faith, or, yes, because of their sexual orientation" and "sends the message that medical decisions can be based on religious and personal beliefs and not on what’s in the best interest of the patient."


The legislation also has also come under fire from a variety of organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union, The National Organization for Women and state educational institutions and professional groups including The Michigan School of Professional Psychology, the Michigan School Counselor Association, the Michigan Counseling Association, the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers and the Michigan Association of Social, the Presidents' Council of Public Universities of Michigan and Western Michigan University all oppose the measure.


(State Rep. David E. Rutledge may be reached at his office by calling 517-373-1771)




Huffington Post: Michigan Legislature Passes Julea Ward Bill
Think Progress: Michigan Passes "License to Condemn" Bill
Rep David Rutledge: Legalized Discrimination Based on Religious Belief


Jennifer Keeton's Lawsuit Against ASU Dismissed

June 2012

David Kaplan / ACA Chief Professional Officer made this statement:  For those who have been following the so-far successful outcome of the Ward v. Wilbanks discrimination case at Eastern Michigan University, I thought you might like to see the ruling that was handed down on June 22 in the similar Keeton case at Augusta State University.  This is a lesser known case because of a court imposed gag order, but it is no less important in significance to the counseling profession.


The lawsuit against Augusta State University Counseling Program was dismissed by Federal Court.


A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former Augusta State University (ASU) student who challenged the right of the counselor education program to require counselors-in-training to learn how to serve gay clients in a supportive judgmental manner. In a ruling handed down on June 22, 2012, Judge J. Randal Hall found that ASU rules were not in violation of the religious rights of the student who brought the suit.


The decision supported the role of the ACA Code of Ethics, cited by ASU,  as the professional standard that governs how counselors should approach and work with clients and avoid using their personal beliefs in an influential manner. The following passage from Judge Hall’s finding speaks to that role:


"The counselor program's charge is to train and prepare students to become licensed professional counselors, and to this end ASU faculty and officials have incorporated into the program professional codes of conduct applicable to practicing counselors. Indeed, adoption of the professional codes and the concomitant remediation mechanism were measures animated in large part by the desire to obtain and maintain the counselor program's professional accreditation -- an important designation that assures students, employers, and the public that its curriculum meets professional standards. The legitimate sweep of the program's policies therefore cannot be doubted."




SPLC Report: Keeton Case


Grad Student Jennifer Keeton Sues Counselor Education Program


July 22, 2010

A graduate student in the Counselor Education program at Augusta State University in Georgia
says that gays have 'identity confusion' and denies allegations that she supports conversion therapy.  Jennifer Keeton has filed a lawsuit against the university that names assistant professors Paulette Schenck and Mary Jane Anderson-Wiley.



Jennifer Keeton, a 24-year-old graduate student, and a devout Christian, said hat she had told Paulette Schenck, an ASU assistant professor named as a defendant in the suit, that homosexuality is a behavioral choice. Keeton claims that ASU professors demanded Keeton suppress her views on homosexuals to remain in the counseling program.


A spokesperson for ASU said the faculty do not discriminate with regards to religious or moral beliefs.  The counselor education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs, and more than 250 students have graduated from the program. The counseling program follows the American School Counselor Association's ethical standards, which specify that counselors in training must "recognize and accept" individual differences, cultural diversity and alternative points of view.


In her suit, Keeton, who wants to become a school counselor, claims Mary Jane Anderson-Wiley, an ASU associate professor, requested that Keeton take part in a remediation plan because of her beliefs about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.  Keeton was required to take part in diversity training and write reflection papers monthly on how "her study has influenced her beliefs," according to court documents. The lawsuit claims that Keeton will be removed from the ASU counseling program if she does not comply with the plan.


Elizabeth Evans, of Louisville, said she had a similar experience when she began the counselor education program at ASU in 1995. After taking three courses, Evans said she was interviewed by a panel of professors who questioned her religious beliefs. "I told them I think homosexuality is wrong. The Bible speaks against it," she said. "I was not admitted to the program, because of my beliefs. When I read the article, my heart hurt for Jennifer... I hope she sues the pants off of them."




Augusta Chronicle: Christian Student Sues ASU
Chronicle of Higher Education: ASU Acc used of Requiring Counseling Student to Accept Homosexuality

Official Statement From ALGBTIC President Michael Chaney


ASU Counselor Education Program Denies Claims Made by Student

August 10, 2010

Augusta State University officials said it's not a graduate student's religious beliefs, but her refusal to work toward being able to counsel homosexual clients that is threatening her standing in the school's counseling program, according to court documents filed Monday.

Jennifer Keeton: Student was not told she must change her beliefs, Augusta State University said in a court filing.


Christian student sues ASU

ASU student says gays have 'identity confusion'

Judge tosses suit similar to ASU case

Web site takes bets on Augusta State case

Local church, state clashes stir emotions

The filing states that Jennifer Keeton must demonstrate her ability to counsel all clients, including the homosexual and transgender population, in order to graduate.  The response is the school's first legal answer since Keeton filed a lawsuit July 21 alleging that she was facing expulsion from the counseling program based on her religious beliefs and her refusal to complete "a thought-reform remediation plan."


In an e-mail cited in the suit, ASU assistant professor Dr. Paulette Schenck told Keeton "the faculty did not expect (her) to change (her) personal beliefs and values."   "(T)he unethical part (was) applying your own personal beliefs and values on other people and not truly accepting that others can have different beliefs and values that are equally valid as your own."


Keeton is a graduate student in ASU's K-12 school counseling program, which requires students to adhere to a neutral code of ethics.  The university's response explains that ASU professors asked Keeton to complete a remediation plan after she wrote in a term paper regarding the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, or GLBT, community that "it would be hard (for her) to work with this population."


Keeton also told fellow student Justin C. Earnest that she would tell gay clients "their behavior is morally wrong and then help the client change that behavior," according to an affidavit by Earnest included in the school's filing.  The remediation plan required Keeton to attend counseling workshops, read counseling journals regarding the GLBT community, increase her exposure to the gay population and write reflections on what she was learning.


The university's legal filings did not directly address Keeton's contention that she was told to attend a gay pride parade as part of the remediation plan.  Members of ASU's faculty also were concerned with Keeton's support of conversion therapy for homosexuals, which the American Counseling Association's ethics committee has concluded "may harm clients."  In her lawsuit, Keeton said the remediation plan "subjects her to aggressive ideological instruction" and asks that she "change her beliefs."


Keeton said she would like to continue her education in the counseling program without fear that the school "will punish her for her religious views" and her "unwillingness to change or abandon those views."  But university officials said if they exempted Keeton from counseling homosexual clients, they would also have to exempt those opposed to war from counseling soldiers.


"The same curriculum would require an atheist student counselor to competently counsel a deeply religious client," the filing said. "A staunch feminist student counselor is required to competently counsel clients from male dominated cultures ... the common thread being that all counselors are required to keep separate their own belief system from the counseling relationship."


The suit also points to a U.S. District Court judge's recent opinion in a similar case, Ward v. Wilbanks.  In the July 2010 ruling, a judge upheld Eastern Michigan University's decision to dismiss a student who refused to counsel a homosexual student or participate in a remediation plan.  University officials said that if the court moves forward with Keeton's case it could affect the school's accreditation and other students' degrees.

What's Next?  Jennifer Keeton has asked the federal court to force the college to drop its requirement that she complete the remediation plan. The U.S. District Court in Augusta scheduled a hearing on her request for a preliminary injunction at 9 a.m. Wednesday.


ALGBTIC Response to Keeton Case

In response to recent events pertaining to counselor training at Augusta State University, the Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC), a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA), issues the following statement.


Although there are no clear cut answers when certain religious beliefs conflict with queer issues, what is currently happening with a counseling student at Augusta State University provides us an opportunity to have important and necessary discussions about culturally competent counselor training and dialogues about social injustices toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and ally (LGBTQQIA) communities. It is pertinent that these discussions remain ongoing and not just during the initial discovery of the controversial event. Therefore, it is our hope that the counseling profession will take steps to rally together to create safe spaces for these difficult dialogues to take place, for all individuals involved.


The field of counseling is a profession that requires counselors to possess understanding and knowledge of diverse groups of individuals, as well as the skills to competently work with these populations, including LGBTQQIA people. The American Counseling Association’s definition of counseling states, "Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals."  By definition, the act of counseling is to work with and empower diverse individuals, families, and groups. Therefore, it would likely be extremely challenging to be empowering to an individual and/or group if negative beliefs and attitudes are held toward that individual and/or group. Throughout the counseling process, the multiple identities of queer clients must be respected and honored, regardless of the counselor’s personal beliefs. ALGBTIC commends counselor educators and programs that assist counselors-in-training to competently work with queer clients.


The ACA Code of Ethics is clear. First, we have an ethical responsibility to respect the diversity of our clients and not to impose our values onto our counseling relationships. Second, we have an ethical responsibility to gain knowledge and culturally sensitive strategies for working with diverse clients. Third, as counselors, we do not overlook and/or participate in discrimination based on multiple identities including gender, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation. ALGBTIC applauds institutions that are trying to resolve difficult ethical dilemmas on behalf of LGBTQQIA communities. We also support counselor training programs that provide counselors-in-training developmental support so that knowledge, awareness, and skills to be able to work with queer clients in the future will be gained.


What is currently taking place demonstrates that heterosexism and homophobia continue to thrive in our profession and society. It further illustrates that mental health and school counseling services for LGBTQQIA clients and students may not be adequate because queer affirmative counseling models are often not included in counselor training. In order for change to take place, we must engage in continued dialogue about how ALL counselors can advocate for queer clients and students. Moreover, we must dialogue about how counselor educators can advocate for counselors-in-training who may need mentorship on their developmental journey to cultural competence. There is absolutely no place for hate in a counseling space.


Michael P. Chaney, Ph.D., LPC, NCC

President, Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Issues in Counseling



Student Sues Over Gay Issue at EMU


David Kaplan at ACA was very helpful on this matter and discussed it at the ACA-SR conference in Washington DC just as the case had made the news.  Counselors may be acquainted with the Eastern Michigan University, Nebraska, and Mississippi cases.  Of interest is the fact that the same religious group that is supporting the legal action in Michigan is also providing funding to the Georgia case. 

Kaplan & other ACA leaders are representing the counseling profession well on this issue and have already issued briefs in the East Michigan University case.  Interestingly several counseling scholars arrived at the same conclusion regarding the case.  The Augusta case has just broken and so the details are still questionable although it bears strong similarity to the ongoing EMU case (including the fact that The Alliance Defense fund, a conservative Christian group is funding both the CMU and the Augusta student's lawsuits) . 

The EMU case boiled down to these points:  Julea Ward, a practicum student referred rather than counsel a gay client.  After due process, the student was dismissed from the counseling program.  The student has now sued university faculty and officials alleging violation of her 1st & 14th amendment rights, including to practice her religious beliefs. 


The pertinent questions in the case are (1) Is it permissible to deny counseling services to a homosexual on the basis of the counselor’s values?  (2) Can referral be made at any time a professional counselor wishes to do so?  (3) When is a client a client?



ACA's Position: Ethical Guidelines


ACA's position on these points are:


(1) Is it permissible to deny counseling services to a homosexual on the basis of the counselor’s values?  No, to do so is in violation of the anti-discrimination clause of the ACA code of ethics.  Under the ACA code C.5 gender identity and sexual orientation are protected classes along with age, culture, disability, religion/spirituality, gender, etc.  Counselors may not refused to see broad classes of persons upon the basis of their own values.  I must note that, to refusal of clients upon the basis of my personal values also has the effect of value imposition (A.4.b).


(2) Can referral be made at any time a professional counselor wishes to do so?  No - referral should be a last resort of the therapist in the event that the counselor lacks the competence to help the client.  Many of us have been told that we should refer if we are "uncomfortable" with the client.  However, the focus of the code of ethics is on the client not the counselor's comfort. 


Other options should be exhausted first (1) supervision for issues that the counselor has limited exposure or training, (2) continuing education, etc.  In both the Augusta and EMU cases, the student was simply asked to become more informed on the subject not to alter their beliefs. 


(3) When is a client a client? In the EMU case the student claimed that since they had been assigned the client but had not yet seen them therefore there was no therapeutic relationship.  ACA holds that the client is due ethical consideration as a client from the first contact.  For example, the client who calls for an appointment but who is not seen is due confidentiality.  In the EMU case, ACA holds that the potential for harm for the client exists since the client was referred to Julia and he/she could question why the original counselor was not going to see them and could discover the prejudice and be harmed as a result.




Detroit News: EMU Student's Lawsuit Dismissed
Ann Arbor News: Suit Against EMU Prompts Lawmakers to Push for Reports on Protecting Students' Religious Beliefs


Court Notes: Julea Ward Case

Ward v. Wilbanks et al, 2010
Excerpts from the actual court's opinion in the Eastern Michigan case:


"The formal charges brought against plaintiff stem from the “violation and your stated intention to continue violating the ACA Code of Ethics.” Plaintiff’s “stated unwillingness to intentionally and competently provide counseling services to individual clients who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is not only of grave concern, but also a violation of ethical code A.1.” Also referenced were statements and responses to feedback in class, supervisory meetings and during the informal review. Clearly, it was not one referral, but rather plaintiff’s refusal to counsel an entire class of people that resulted in her discipline" (pp. 14-15).

"Courts have traditionally given public colleges and graduate schools wide latitude "to create curricula that fit schools' understandings of their educational missions."  Kissinger v. Board of Trustees of Ohio State University, 5 F.3d 177, 181 (6th Cir. 1993) (citing Doherty v. Southern College of Optometry, 862 F.2d 570, 576-66 (6th Cir. 1988)).

"This judicial deference to educators in their curriculum decisions is no less applicable in a clinical setting because evaluation in a clinical course 'is no less an 'academic' judgment because it involves observation of . . . skills and techniques in actual conditions of practice, rather than assigning a grade to . . . written answers on an essay question.'" Doherty, 862 F.2d at 576-77 (quoting Board of Curators of Univ. of Missouri v. Horowitz, 435 U.S. 78, 95 (1978) (Powell, J., concurring)). A federal court should not override a "'genuinely academic decision' . . . unless it is such a substantial departure from accepted academic norms as to demonstrate that the person or committee responsible did not actually exercise professional judgment." Regents of the University of Michigan v. Ewing, 474 U.S. 214, 225 (1985)" (p. 19).

"Furthermore, plaintiff’s statement that she would counsel homosexuals on non-relationship issues demonstrates her lack of understanding of the nature of counseling. Counseling is unpredictable, especially in a school setting where problems are not always apparent on their face. A counselor’s job is to facilitate answers that are right for the client. Choosing particular issues that a counselor will agree to discuss with a client is not practical in the real world.

The evidence in this case supports the University’s claim that the Policy is part of the curriculum. Students have notice of the Policy, both in the Handbook and as taught in most counseling classes. It is the University’s prerogative to define its own curriculum, and it has given sufficient rational reasons for including the ACA Code of Ethics in its curriculum.

During the process that followed the referral in this case, plaintiff’s position hardened and she expressed her unwillingness to bend. The decision to dismiss plaintiff was made after multiple attempts at testing her ability to build a barrier in values between the client and counselor. The dismissal was entirely due to plaintiff’s refusal to change her behavior, not her beliefs" (p. 21).

"The University had a rational basis for adopting the ACA Code of Ethics into its counseling program, not the least of which was the desire to offer an accredited program. Furthermore, the University had a rational basis for requiring its students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values. In the case of Ms. Ward, the University determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs - including homosexual relationships. The University offered Ms. Ward the opportunity for a remediation plan, which she rejected. Her refusal to attempt learning to counsel all clients within their own value systems is a failure to complete an academic requirement of the program.

Ms. Ward was enrolled in the school counseling program. In a high school setting, a counselor can expect to be presented with all sorts of issues, including homosexuality. Counseling is not an exact science; rather it is unpredictable and personal at its core. A client may seek counseling for depression, or issues with their parents, and end up discussing a homosexual relationship. A counselor who cannot keep their personal values out of the interaction has great potential to harm her client.

Referrals are taught to be a last resort because the nature of issues and topics confronting individual clients are often unforeseen. A counselor may hold himself out to specialize in a particular issue, like eating disorders, but that disorder may be due to underlying issues including, perhaps, coming to terms with their homosexuality" (pp. 26-27).

"All of this supports defendant’s position that a counselor needs clinical educational experiences to draw upon in order to deal with situations in a non-harmful, ethically appropriate manner. Providing such skills to its graduates is the legitimate pedagogical concern of the University. EMU could not confer a counseling degree on a student who said she would categorically refer all clients who sought counseling on topics with which she had contrary moral convictions. Having demonstrated that its Policy is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns, the University did not violate plaintiff’s First Amendment free speech rights" (p. 27).

"Plaintiff has distorted the facts in this case to support her position that defendants dismissed her due to her religious beliefs. While defendants may have been indelicate in their inquiry into Ms. Ward’s beliefs, they never demonstrated a purpose to change her religious beliefs. Defendants were at all times concerned with plaintiff’s refusal to counsel an entire class of people whose values she did not share. Defendants acknowledged that plaintiff’s beliefs motivated her behaviors, but always made the distinction between the two, and in no way attacked her beliefs. Even plaintiff is forced to agree that Drs. Callaway and Dugger never told her she needed to change her religious beliefs" (p. 28).

"As in Kissinger, the Program=s requirement that counseling students adhere to the ACA Code of Ethics is generally applicable because it applies equally to all students enrolled in the Program, and because it is a core component of the Practicum course. The Program’s requirements apply to everyone equally, regardless of religion, and are “not aimed at particular religious practices.” There is no system of “particularized exemptions” by which students enrolled in the Program would be allowed to deviate from the ACA Code of Ethics in order to refer all clients whose behavior or sexual orientation they found objectionable. No students were allowed to refer clients based on their protected class, nor would they graduate without successfully completing Practicum" (pp. 29-30). 



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Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama