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Texas rule allows social workers to reject LBGTQ and disabled clients

The Texas State Board of Social Workers voted animously to remove LBGTQ and disabled clients from its nondiscrimination clause.

LBGTQ Max Whittaker/Getty Images

The Texas State Board of Social Workers is being denounced for its decision to remove protections for LGBTQ clients, per the Texas Tribune.

On Monday (Oct. 19), the board voted unanimously to update its nondiscrimination clause so that it no longer includes disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Governor Greg Abott reportedly made the ruling to align with the state’s policy on disciplining social workers. “It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the legislature,” said Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze.

The new nondiscrimination protections have since received backlash from organizations, advocacy groups and lawmakers who are demanding the reversal of the decision.

Will Francis, executive director of the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said the rule change was “incredibly disheartening” and criticized the board for failing to get social workers’ intake. “The board did not stand up for vulnerable Texans,” he continued.

Seven advocacy groups, led by the statewide LGBTQ group Equality Texas, issued a joint statement in opposition of the ruling.

“The social workers code of conduct previously helped ensure ethical treatment of all clients and prevented bias-motivated misconduct,” Equality Texas’ CEO Ricardo Martinez said in the statement. “Now with the removal of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression from the code, LGBTQ+ folks who experience discrimination could face more obstacles to getting the help they need.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia and other Congress members also came together and wrote a letter to the governor’s office, the board and the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council in hopes to get the rule change reversed.

“In the middle of a life-threatening, unprecedented pandemic, no one should be denied services for who they are,” Garcia tweeted alongside a photo of the letter. “This rule change was rushed without input from professional social workers. I hope the Governor and the board will recognize the terrible repercussions this will have on the safety and well-being of some Texans in the state and will reverse this decision immediately.”

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