Saturday, October 23, 2021

Bill allows academic counselors to refuse gay MSU students

Gay MSU students potentially could be refused help from academic counselors after several irrelevant provisions slipped into the education appropriations bill recently approved by the Legislature.

One section would allow counselors refusal if they have conflicting religious views, a measure Democrats in the House and Senate blasted.

But would the university actually allow its employees to refuse helping gay students?

“There’s no way I can speculate on a hypothetical counseling situation,” Jason Cody, a university spokesperson, said in an email. “What I can tell you is that MSU follows the law.”

And according to the Michigan constitution, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LBGT, community aren’t a legally protected class.

The recently passed law will require universities report “efforts to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of students enrolled in accredited counseling degree programs at the university,” according to the bill.

State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, blasted the section, calling the budget “a Christmas tree for social conservatism” on the Senate floor where it passed two weeks ago.

State Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren, said “that’s just one wrinkle on top of many many other wrinkles,” citing other parts of the bill that would deny employee benefits for partners of university workers and another that requires colleges and universities to report embryonic stem cell researching to the Department of Community Health.

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel said it’s all part of a political game to appease “extremist” conservative groups.

But Ari Adler, press secretary for the House Republicans said the provision was intended to protect those who are religious.

“Every individual is entitled to religious beliefs and should not be reprimanded for those beliefs,” Adler said in an email. “The idea behind the language in the bill is to allow a counselor to excuse themselves if it is in the best interest of a potential client that someone else counsel them because religious beliefs may hinder them from doing the best job possible.”

Vicki Levengood, communications director for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights declined to comment.

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