Appeals Court to Hear Case of Counseling Student Dismissed from Program for Refusing to Work with LGBT Clients

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Robyn Shepherd, ACLU national, (917) 302-7189 or (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Rana Elmir, ACLU of Michigan, (313) 578-6816; relmir@aclumich.org

Appeals Court to Hear Case of Counseling Student Dismissed from Program for Refusing to Work with LGBT Clients

ACLU Filed Amicus Brief That Argues Counselors Can’t Discriminate As Part of Professional Training at a Public University

CINCINNATI - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is slated to hear arguments today in the case of a graduate student who was removed from Eastern Michigan University’s (EMU) counseling program because she refused to counsel lesbian, gay and bisexual clients on any issues relating to same-sex relationships during her clinical training.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February supporting EMU’s right to require the student, who was training to become a school counselor, to follow the curricular requirements including not to discriminate against potential clients.

“Students seeking counseling must be able to trust that they will receive the help they need, free from discrimination,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling. “Counselors are entitled to their own religious beliefs, but they do not have a right to discriminate as part of their professional training at a public university.”

EMU requires its graduate counseling students to meet the university’s clinical standards and abide by the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, which forbids counselors from discriminating in their clinical practice.

“EMU has a right to insist that its counseling students understand that mental health professionals have a duty to their clients first and foremost,” said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan. “Public school counselors should not be able to close their doors to gay students looking for guidance.”

The ACLU’s amicus brief can be found at: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/ward-v-wilbanks-amicus-brief

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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