LGBTQ+ advocates and state lawmakers are mobilizing against the Texas State Board of Social Workers’ removal last week of protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and disability status from its code of conduct.
During a Friday news conference organized by the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, advocates said they will pressure the board to reverse its decision, which lets social workers turn away clients on the basis of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
What’s more, lawmakers pledged to file a bipartisan bill during next year’s legislative session to strengthen anti-discrimination protections. At present, there’s no Texas law shielding LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.
State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said the board’s unanimous vote, which came the request of Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, shows the need for better protections for LGBTQ+ Texans.
“No one should be discriminated against just because of who they are and who they love,” said Menendez, who also sent a letter to Abbott and the board demanding a reversal.
State Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, said the timing of the change is especially cruel since it comes during the pandemic, when Texans have an unprecedented need for social services.
“This flies in the face of everything that we’ve been taught, everything that we’ve been trained, everything that exists in our national code of conduct and our code of ethics,” said Bernal, himself a social worker.
Advocates called on Texans raise their concerns to the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which oversees the board. The council has scheduled an October 27 hearing that will include public comment.