While many are focused on the upcoming Presidential election and making sure all hands are on deck to vote for the candidate who will most help the LGBTQ+ community, Texas is working to quietly strip away rights instead.
Last week, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners voted to amend rules that stated whether a social worker is allowed to deny services to certain groups. During a joint meeting with the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, the board that oversees regulatory agencies related to mental health, the board decided unanimously to change the current code of conduct by removing language that prohibits social workers from turning away clients on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The amendments were recommended by Governor Greg Abbott, an anti-LGBTQ+ Republican who fought hard for the failed “bathroom bill” in 2017 before backtracking on his support. Gov. Abbott’s office, however, notes that the change was suggested because the code’s original protections went beyond what’s laid out in the state law about disciplining social workers.
“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” Renae Eze, Gov. Abbott’s spokesperson, told the Star Tribune. Eze notably did not cite any specific laws, though, as Texas has yet to pass a bill allowing social workers to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community.
The decision was widely condemned by social workers in Texas, as well as groups across the country. Speaking with the Star Tribune, the National Association of Social Workers called the repeal of protections “incredibly disheartening.” Steven Parks, a private practice social worker based in Houston, called the rollbacks “both a professional and personal gut punch”
“There’s now a gray area between what’s legally allowed and ethically responsible,” said Parks. “The law should never allow a social worker to legally do unethical things.”