The Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners is coming under fire after removing protections for clients based on the gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability status of those who seek social worker services.
The unanimous decision was made by the state regulatory board at the recommendation of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Governor Abbott’s office claims the protections go beyond state law nondiscrimination requirements for social workers.
Social workers across the state and nation immediately voiced their opposition to the new rule after it was announced. The Executive Director of the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Will Francis, described the decision to the Associated Press as “incredibly disheartening.”
Advocates across the state worry that the new rule will create additional barriers for vulnerable populations who need to receive help and access to the resources. In a press release from Equality Texas, Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Texas Transgender Education Network of Texas, detailed that "many LGBTQ+ Texans struggle to access competent, quality, and affordable health care as is."
Additionally, some social workers are concerned about their ethical duty to serve those in need regardless of identities and disability status being compromised by the new legislature. Steven Parks, a private practice social worker in Houston, told the Texas Tribune, “The law should never allow a social worker to legally do unethical things.”
As Texas and the rest of the nation reckon with the coronavirus pandemic, this new rule worries lawmakers that not everyone will have access to crucial services. Representative Sylvia Garcia, who represents parts of Houston, urged Governor Abbott and the board via Twitter to reverse their position.
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