Summary of Meetings Held at the APA 2011 Convention Addressing the Issue of “Conscience Clause” Legislation

Recommendations for the CLGBTC and Request for Input from the CLGBTC
Prepared by Melissa Grey, Co-Chair of the Div. 44 Public Policy Committee


During the APA Convention, several meetings took place that centered on the conscience clause, including the Div. 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues) Public Policy Committee meeting, the joint Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns/Public Policy Committee (CLGBTC/PPC) meeting, and Glenda Russell’s and Robin Buhrke’s discussion hour on the conscience clause. The PPC has made the conscience clause legislation a priority. 

Based on these discussions, the PPC notes the following.

There are several different perspectives and topics that appear to be involved in this legislation, particularly: 

  1. Educational or academic freedom is threatened, specifically this legislation has the potential to intrude on psychologists’ domains of ensuring standards of care and ethical practice of our students.

  2. This also represents an attempt to undermine the APA’s ethics code.

  3. This legislation is also an underhanded way of undermining social justice and permitting discrimination, particularly against LGBT clients. 

  4. The legislation may compromise the integrity, accreditation and potential survivability of graduate psychology programs.

We believe that several potential partners in opposing such legislation should be considered including State, Provincial and Territorial Associations (SPTAs), clinical training directors, related medical and helping professions (e.g., National Association of Social Workers, physicians and the American Civil Liberties Union). APA, including the Education Directorate, the Board of Educational Affairs, Div. 31 (SPTA Affairs) and Council of Executives of State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Associations (CESPPA) have also expressed clear interest in working to oppose this legislation with collaboration and is clearly an important partner.

We anticipate that audiences of any intervention or education would be legislators.

Given this preliminary analysis:

We recognize the need for Michigan to develop a short-term approach quickly. The PPC is acting to support the preparation of a position paper, assist in strategizing and framing the legislation, and is taking a consultative role. Judith Kovach, a member of the PPC and leadership in the Michigan Psychological Association is acting as point person for the opposition of this legislation in Michigan for the Michigan Psychological Association, the PPC, CESPPA and with others at APA.

The PPC aims to utilize the Michigan experience as a way to test strategy and develop materials for the sake of a long-term strategy, one that could be utilized in other states. 

Some of the discussion in convention included questions from the PPC about whether the APA would produce an official policy statement. We would like to ask the CLGBTC to evaluate whether drafting such a statement that might be approved by the APA would be a beneficial strategy. We recognize that this is a lengthy process and would like to know the CLGBTC’s thoughts on this.