On Tuesday, the American Counseling Association (ACA) announced that it would pull its 2017 Conference & Expo out of Nashville, Tennessee, due to the state’s new anti-LGBT legislation. Signed into law in April, HB 1840/SB 1556 allows a therapist or counselor to refuse to treat clients whose "goals, outcomes, or behaviors... conflict with a sincerely held principle" of that mental health professional, endangering vulnerable Tennesseans most in need of mental healthcare and treatment.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” ACA CEO Richard Yep said in a statement. "After thoughtful discussion, the ACA Governing Council made the difficult—and courageous—decision on behalf of our membership... By relocating from Tennessee, ACA is standing up to this discriminatory law and we remain committed in the battle to ensure that this law does not become the national standard."
Mr. Yep elaborated on the ACA's opposition to HB 1840/SB 1556 in video to its members:
The decision to relocate the conference is a blow to Nashville tourism. According to The Washington Post, the ACA event would have brought in an estimated $2.5 million in visitor spending and generated $444,609 in taxes.
“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,” Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors, told The Washington Post. “It is regrettable that all the hard work and investment to make Nashville a top destination has been unnecessarily undone by politics.” A Colorado organization called Centers for Spiritual Living was the first to cancel an event due to the law.
Although the law's relatively low profile has allowed it to escape business boycotts that currently plague Mississippi and North Carolina thus far, these cancellations may signal a sea change for Tennessee's fortunes. As more groups follow in the footsteps of the ACA, we expect the Volunteer State will hurt where it seems to matter most: the wallet.