Controversial ethics bill passes Tenn. Legislature, headed to Gov. Haslam

Apr 18, 2017

Rep. Bill Lamberth (R) and Rep. Mike Stewart (D)
Credit capitol.tn.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  Tennessee’s Doctors, attorneys, therapists and other professionals have been allowed to set their own ethical standards through their associations for years, but that may be about to change.

A bill headed to Gov. Haslam’s desk for consideration would require the state licensing board for each occupation to create unique ethics rules for Tennessee professionals.

LGBT advocates say the bill is aimed squarely at them, a continuation of last year’s effort by Republican lawmakers to allow Christian therapists to opt out of treating gay patients.

During the 2016 legislative session Tennessee passed a law preventing the American Counseling Association from punishing members who turn away LGBT patients.

Nashville Democratic State Rep. Mike Stewart chided his Republican colleagues on the floor of the House Monday evening for considering a bill that would give politicians the final say on every profession’s code of ethics.

“We’re talking about putting additional regulations on businesses in the State of Tennessee, simply as a side effect of targeting the Counseling Association.”

Stewart also noted the bill would likely put Tennessee professionals out of compliance with national standards for their vocation, something Republican Bill Lamberth saw as an improvement.

“Some of the states out there, like California or New York that have drastically different morals, standards, and – quite frankly – licensing requirements. Why on earth would we want our professionals to be held to their standards instead of our own.”

The House and Senate both passed the measure yesterday along party lines. The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his consideration.