News (USA)

Counseling group cancels conference to target Tennessee law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — By canceling its conference in Tennessee next year, the American Counseling Association wants to put other states on notice that new LGBT laws can carry consequences, the group’s leader said.

The cancellation announced Tuesday, hinted at after the Tennessee General Assembly passed a new law letting therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles, is aimed at preventing similar measures elsewhere.

“Our message to other states is don’t introduce bills that are essentially legalizing discrimination,” said Richard Yep, the organization’s CEO. “It is discriminating against those who are least able to fight back.”

The conference would have brought between 3,500 to 4,000 people to Nashville, he said. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. estimates that it would have generated $2.5 million in direct visitor spending and $444,609 in tax revenue for the city and the state of Tennessee.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and tourist officials in the Music City have vocally opposed the legislation and warned of a possible backlash.

Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors, said he was disappointed but not surprised.

“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,” Spyridon said. “It is regrettable that all the hard work and investment to make Nashville a top destination has been unnecessarily undone by politics.”

The ACA had already booked its expo in the Music City toward the end of March but decided to cancel after careful consideration and hearing from its members, Yep said. He said he appreciated the city’s efforts to fight the law and raised the possibility that the organization would someday come to Nashville once the measure is repealed.

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