Philadelphia mayor orders TN travel ban in wake of state's new LGBT counseling law

Gov. Bill Haslam, center, announces the creation of a task force to propose ways to improve access to health care in Tennessee Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in Nashville. House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, right, said she began conversations with health policy experts at Vanderbilt University's medical school after lawmakers rejected the Insure Tennessee proposal last year by Haslam. At left is Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee's controversial new law allowing mental health counselors to turn away LGBT clients has prompted Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to ban publicly funded, non-essential travel by city workers to the Volunteer State.

Meanwhile, a New York state assemblyman state is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do the same.

Haslam's office had no immediate comment.

Philadelphia Mayor Kenney's order on Monday, first reported by NBC affiliate WCAU-TV, is the first action by a government over the Tennessee legislation, which Gov. Bill Haslam last month signed into law April 27 after fellow Republicans in the General Assembly passed the measure.

Kenney's order extends his previously issued directive aimed at Mississippi and North Carolina to Tennessee and Oxford, Ala., all of which have enacted measures critics charge negatively impact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

In a statement, Kenney said "I am announcing this ban in response to the enactment of legislation that infringes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in these jurisdictions."

Kenney said he would "reconsider this ban if the States of North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee and the city of Oxford, Alabama choose to repeal their discriminatory legislation."

The mayor's directive creates an exemption if the travel is deemed "essential to public health and safety."

When Haslam signed the legislation allowing therapists and counselors with "sincerely held principles" to reject gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other clients, the governor said he thought it struck an appropriate balance with requirements the professionals still treat people considered an imminent danger to themselves or others.

Haslam noted a second provision mandates that mental health professional arrange a referral to another counselor or therapist.

Philadelphia's action comes on the heels of last month's announcement by Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, who said the new Tennessee law was partially responsible for her decision not to attend this summer's conference of the nation's 50 secretaries of state in Nashville.

The American Counseling Association, which opposed the Tennessee legislation, is reconsidering its decision to hold its national convention next year in Nashville because Haslam signed the measure. Nashville tourism officials say some other groups have voiced concerns about the law.

Last week, New York Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, D-Manhattan, called on fellow Democrat Cuomo to extend the governor's existing publicly funded travel ban for North Carolina and Mississippi to Tennessee.

"I urge [Gov. Cuomo] to instate a travel ban to Tennessee," O'Donnell said, according to The Legislative Gazette, which covers New York state government. "I do not have to extrapolate on how this is directly discriminatory to individuals that identify as LGBT or to those that hold any beliefs that are different from the beliefs of their medical provider."

O'Donnell, who was elected in 2002 as New York's first openly gay state lawmaker, is pushing for the third time legislation that would ban state-funded travel to places that discriminate. He says his bill would allow Cuomo to act on a case-by-case basis without having to issue executive orders.

"New York is a progressive leader on human rights, and we must make the equal treatment of all citizens a priority," O'Donnell was quoted as saying by the The Legislative Gazette.