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Texas social workers no longer allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ and persons with disabilities

A woman walking together with her partner in wheelchair at the Pride parade
Photo: Dreamstime

After backlash from lawmakers, social workers and advocacy groups, a state board voted Tuesday to undo a rule change that would have allowed social workers to deny LGBTQ and persons with disabilities.

The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council voted unanimously to restore LGBTQ and disabled clients’ protections to Texas social workers’ code of conduct just two weeks after removing them, the Texas Tribune reported.

On Oct. 12, in a joint meeting with the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners, the council had voted unanimously to take those protections away. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s office had recommended that move, saying it would align better with the state’s discrimination policy for social workers, the Occupations Code.

But lawmakers, social workers, and advocacy groups were outraged by the change.

Gloria Canseco, appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to lead the behavioral health council, expressed regret that the previous rule change was “perceived as hostile to the LGBTQ+ community or to disabled persons.”

“At every opportunity, we intend to prohibit discrimination against any person for any reason,” she said.

Abbott’s office recommended earlier this month that the board strip three categories from a code of conduct that establishes when a social worker may refuse to serve someone.

The decision was condemned in a joint statement by seven advocacy groups: Equality Texas, Transgender Education Network of Texas, National Association for Social Workers-Texas Chapter, Texas Freedom Network, ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaign.

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