NASW says anti-LGBT laws must be vetoed, repealed

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is both dismayed and disappointed by the legislative actions taken by Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee to deny equal treatment of LGBT individuals and families.  The following is a brief summary of each law:

Mississippi Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act (HB 1523)

The stated purpose of the law is to protect from discrimination claims anyone who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, that sexual relations are reserved solely for marriage, and that the terms male and female pertain only to a person’s genetics and anatomy at birth. The law allows individuals (including those working in publicly funded courts and services), businesses, and religious organizations to use religion to discriminate against LGBT persons and their families.  Examples range from the right to refuse marriage certificates refusing to employ a person and/or rent or sell a person property.  Also, medical professionals can refuse to provide health care if a patient seeks treatment, counseling and surgery related to “sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning[1].

Tennessee LGBT Anti-Counseling Legislation (SB-1556)

The Tennessee anti-LGBT law declares that no person providing counseling or therapy services (in private practice) shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist. Furthermore, the bill provides immunity from liability for counselors and therapists who refuse to counsel a client when doing so is in conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist.

North Carolina Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act ( HB DRH40005-TC-1B)

The North Carolina Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which was passed by the North Carolina legislature, requires schools and public agencies to have gender-segregated bathrooms and to prevent people from using a bathroom that doesn’t correspond to their biological sex.  Further, the law states individuals cannot bring any civil action based upon the state’s employment or public accommodation nondiscrimination protections.  It states that cities and counties are prohibited from writing non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people or veterans.  This trend in legal discrimination is growing, with  13 other states  considering similar legislation.

NASW Position

NASW believes that these laws, passed under the guise of “religious freedom” or to “protect children,” must be vetoed or repealed.  Taken separately or collectively, all three laws are objectionable and are an affront to the progress we have made toward protecting the civil and human rights of all Americans.

While NASW respects diversity of many types, various freedoms and rights are subject to reasonable limitations and religious expression does not automatically trump other legitimate interests.[2]   NASW has joined allied mental health provider groups to voice concern that such laws violate their professions’ policies and the NASW Code of Ethics. NASW believes that discrimination and prejudice dir­ected against any group is damaging to the so­cial, emotional, and economic well-being of the affected group and of society as a whole.

[1] CNN News  April 16, 2016.  Retrieved from:

[2] NASW  Legal Issue of the Month.  Provider Refusal and Conscious Clause Controversies.

For more information on this issue contact NASW Senior Policy Associate Evelyn Tomaszewski at


  1. Thank you for this information. its always good to know what is going on with the government, when it pertains to my focus in life which is passing my LCSW exam and beginning my life. thanks for your blog! (

  2. Thank you for sharing these important updates. I hope we move in the direction of inclusion and understanding, instead of discrimination. As a mother of two boys, public bathroom issues are something I worry about (I can’t go in with them and want them to feel independent…but darn, it I’ve read too many stories about same gendered violations to feel comfortable). I’m way more worried because they are out of my sight…not because of concern regarding transgendered individuals. Inclusion and understanding are the only way to go.

  3. Government needs to get out of all private business decisions. If any business wants to forfeit earning my money because of their beliefs/practices, it’s their loss. I choose where to buy products, dine out, play in a casino, work out a gym because of the quality of product and level of customer service. A prime example is my choice of gym: the biggest gym in town with a hefty discount for hospital workers also heavily discriminates against fat people (aka “Persons of Size” of which I am). I choose to pay $17 more a month to belong to a smaller gym that genuinely welcomes all of its members, regardless of age, size or other difference. My trainer is awesome and I’ve brought in 5 new members in the past several months because they share similar impressions of other gyms.

    I have no problem at all with a casino that discriminates against card counters. If I’m ever caught counting cards at the 21 table, the casino has the right to refuse me service (card counting is not illegal). Same thing as not being able to order a ham sandwich with mayo at a local deli. I can always order something different or choose another sandwich shop. My money is only spent where it is welcome. Business owners that discriminate do so at the risk of losing money.

    After having taught numerous 3-hour Ethics courses over the past decade, I can report the NASW Code of Ethics prohibits a therapist (LCSW) from discriminating against a client for any reason. The Tennessee Law in question does not trump our Code of Ethics. However, our Code of Ethics calls for us to refer to another competent professional when we are not proficient in a certain type of practice. This means a physician and/or therapist SHOULD refuse to provide health care if a patient seeks treatment, counseling and surgery related to “sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning”. I’m not going to treat any patient in any area in which I am not fully competent, based upon my personal adherence to the Code of Ethics.

    It is hoped NASW and the other mental health/healthcare organizations will work together to protect children from sexual predators while embracing diversity of all (including people whose opinions we may not like).

    • Robert Considine


      Your privilege is showing.

      The issue is not competence. Nobody is arguing for incompetent practice. That’s a straw man argument.

      Your position is anathema to social work practice,as I know it.

      Why do you refer to children’s sexual predators? It has NOTHING to do with any legislation, or even your discussion for that matter. Your conflation of the predators of children with legislation that harms gay people is astonishing! It shows your bigotry in stark terms. That you feel competent in teaching social work ethics is truly depressing. I am very happy to continue this dialogue. But I will not beat around the bush. You need to deal with your biases in a different way and I am concerned that you are practicing with these beliefs and attitudes.

    • Beth, or you can do what should be done as a professional and become competent. The majority of the issues that LGBT people deal with are depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions they experience as a result of discriminatory treatment by society. When someone from this community seeks help to deal with the effects of this mistreatment, it tells the client that not even mental health providers can treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

      You mention the terms “sexual predator” in your comment, without providing any reliable research or references to back up what is so obviously your own personal opinion. Transgender does not equal “predator” and the misinformation being spread about this population is being done by groups who have a fundamental object to the worth, dignity, and the very existence of transgender people under the guise of “public safety.”

      I find it so disappointing that someone who took an oath as a helping professional could take this point of view. Instead of using this as a copout to not deal with something that you feel uncomfortable with, do your job and get educated. If you can’t do that, then get out of the profession before someone commits suicide as a result of your inaction and ineptitude. You should be ashamed of yourself :-(

    • My research into the issue DOES relate to sexual predators’ histories of preying upon vulnerable persons in public restrooms. I have extensive experience in treating sexual abusers and am fully competent to speak to this issue.

      Robert, what do you mean by “your privilege is showing”?

      Robert and Caitlyn, how did you come to the conclusion that my argument for freedom of religion and free market trade become discrimination against LGBTQI persons?

    • “your privilege is showing” is a way they seek to shut down free speech, not listen to opposing view points and push the PC narrative that is hurting this profession and society at large.

    • Robert Considine

      Free speech? Free speech typically refers to constitutionally protected speech which is not even being discussed here. Are you a social worker, James?

    • Robert Considine

      Your research into the issue? May I have a link to your research? I am suspicious of its quality. When I speak of your privilege, I am referring to your apparent lack of understanding about the struggles of LGBT people. You haven’t had to do with the struggles of that community, haven’t educated yourself, and don’t seem to care. Your examples of acceptable discrimination is so freaking clueless I am ALMOST dumbstruck. You evidence no understanding about being oppressed as a member of a vulnerable group. Happily, I know many, many heterosexual SWers who get what it’s like to be targeted over who you are. It’s a sad day anytime a “social worker” advocates for discrimination and that you are doing so should give you pause. I hope your impact on vulnerable people is limited and I would like to suggest that you should leave the profession. Maybe a pulpit would be more appropriate for your vile nonsense? Shame on you. You’re a bigoted social worker and I could give a rat’s ass whether your stupidity about LGBT people is based on your religion or on some nonsense “research” that you have concocted or dug up.

    • Robert,

      I am so sorry you perceive me as “bigoted” for posting an viewpoint that government needs to stay out of business. It’s interesting that a pro-business, anti-government view is perceived as anti-LGBTQ. The intent was not to advocate for the laws, but identify alternate solutions to addressing discrimination through empowering people in other ways.

      A simple web search identifies numerous cases in which women and children have been accosted in public restrooms by sick predators, some of whom “identified” as another gender without being truly transgender. This is the background leading to some of the states to pass their “bathroom” laws.

      I have many LGBTQ friends and my brother (who recently died) was gay. On the morning of the Pulse shootings, I called The Center (GLBT) in Orlando to volunteer my clinical services in CISD (I live near Orlando). I helped organize and promote a candlelight vigil in my hometown after the event. I am VERY aware of the struggles experienced by LGBTQ persons and love and support my friends accordingly.

      My statement regarding competencies is for those clinicians who lack the competence to work with a particular client. The NASW Code of Ethics is clear in its guidelines to either refer the client to a competent professional or gain the competency to work with that client.

      Your anger is reminiscent of many NASW members who have interpreted the Code to mean that only Democrats and Socialists should be Social Workers. Yet, in multiple sections of the Code, Social Workers should not discriminate against any person for any reason, including political or religious beliefs.

      I hope to dialogue with you again in other NASW Blog posts.

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