Texas Social Workers Can Now Deny Services to LGBTQ and Disabled Clients

Tara C. Mahadevan
·4 min read

Texas officials are in hot water after allowing state social workers to drop some protections for LGBTQ residents and people with disabilities.

Now, social workers can turn away clients based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, the Associated Press reports. This guidance occurred at the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, with the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners voting unanimously to remove the nondiscrimination clause from the code of conduct.

The decision was made on Monday during a joint meeting with the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which supervises regulatory agencies for professions involved with mental health.

The new ruling has been denounced by social work organizations and LGBTQ advocacy groups, like the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, whose director, Will Francis, called it “incredibly disheartening.”

“It’s disturbing, even if it’s unintentional,” he told the AP. “They created space for people to get the impression that this is allowed now. What the governor has done is put people with disabilities at risk for discrimination for no reason.”

Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), who represents Houston and the neighboring area, encouraged the board to overturn the decision.

“As a former social worker, I’m appalled by the new rule the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners approved last week,” she wrote on Twitter. “In the middle of a life-threatening, unprecedented pandemic, no one should be denied services for who they are.”

She added, “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.”

“Many LGBTQ+ Texans struggle to access competent, quality, and affordable health care as is,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas in a press release from Equality Texas.

“There is always a real possibility that trans Texans specifically could be turned away or dissuaded from accessing the medical resources they need. At a time when many in our community require services to make it through an isolating pandemic, attempting to grant providers a license to discriminate is abhorrent," Schelling added.

Others took to social media to express their outrage at the move.

A spokeswoman for the Republican governor told the AP that it was “not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the [state] Legislature” when the outlet asked for comment on the new guidance.

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