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Texas social workers drop nondiscrimination rules for LGBTQ, disabilities

Texas social workers drop nondiscrimination rules for LGBTQ, disabilities
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Texas state social workers have dropped some protections for LGBTQ Americans and people with disabilities following a recommendation from the governor's office that advised the agency governing social work in the state that its nondiscrimination policy exceeded that put in place by Texas's Occupations Code.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the decision was made at a joint meeting between the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners and the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council. The change, prompted by the governor's office, eliminates language from the Board of Social Work Examiners' code of conduct that prohibited social work organizations in the state from turning away people based on their gender identity, sexual orientation or disability status.

Monday's decision was sharply criticized by social work organizations and LGBTQ advocacy groups, including the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, whose director called it “incredibly disheartening.”

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“It’s disturbing, even if it’s unintentional,” Will Francis told the AP. “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.”

“Many LGBTQ+ Texans struggle to access competent, quality, and affordable health care as is,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas in a press release from Equality Texas, an LGTBQ group.

“There is always a real possibility that trans Texans specifically could be turned away or dissuaded from accessing the medical resources they need. 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," Schelling said.

Rep. Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaFacebook-backed cryptocurrency Libra changes names Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Texas), who represents parts of Houston and the surrounding area, urged the board to reverse its decision in a statement Tuesday.

"As a former social worker, I’m appalled by the new rule the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners approved last week," she said. "In the middle of a life-threatening, unprecedented pandemic, no one should be denied services for who they are."

"This rule change was rushed without input from professional social workers. I hope the Governor and the Board will recognize the terrible repercussions this will have on the safety and well-being of some Texans in the state and will reverse this decision immediately," added Garcia.

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A spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told the AP that it was "not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the [state] Legislature" when asked for comment about the recommendation.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. on 10/20