Texas’s LGBTQ residents are now in danger of being rejected by social workers.
As NBC News reports, the state Board of Social Work Examiners unanimously voted to change its code of conduct. This change was approved after Governor Greg Abbott recommended that protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability be removed. Abbott’s reasoning was that the nondiscrimination clause went beyond the state’s policy on social work, according to the Associated Press. Abbott’s office also argues that the Board made the change to align with the state’s Occupations Code, which determines how and when the state may discipline social workers.
“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” said Renae Eze, spokeswoman for Abbott’s office.
After making this change, LGBTQ advocates and social work organizations have condemned the Board’s decision.
“It’s disturbing, even if it’s unintentional,” said William Francis, the director of the National Association of Social Workers’ Texas chapter. “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.”
“The social workers code of conduct previously helped ensure ethical treatment of all clients and prevented bias-motivated misconduct,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of the statewide LGBTQ group Equality Texas, 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.”
“There is always a real possibility that trans Texans specifically could be turned away or dissuaded from accessing the medical resources they need,” added Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, in the statement. “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.”