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Texas Officials Face Backlash For Allowing Social Workers to Deny LGBTQ+, Disabled Clients

Marchers unfurl a rainbow flag at the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C., in June.
Carolyn Kaster
Marchers unfurl a rainbow flag at the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C., in June.

The Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners will no longer prohibit social workers from turning away clients on the basis of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The change comes after a recommendation from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. The governor found that the code’s original nondiscrimination protections went beyond protections laid out in the state law — specifically how and when the state may discipline social workers.

The Texas Legislature has long opposed expanding nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing and other areas of state law to Texans in the LGBTQ+ community.

Several social workers and public figures have spoken out against Abbott's recommendation.

In an interview with TPR's " Texas Matters," State Senator Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat, blasted the policy change.

“It would put at risk people who are at risk already for high trauma and taking away their access to mental health services would detrimentally impact individuals who are seeking assistance,” Menendez said.

If the rules are not rescinded, Menendez promises to file a bill in the next legislative session to address the issue.

Menendez said the changes are discriminatory against the LGBTQ+ community “on sheer face value."

There are over 100 Texas counties — many in rural areas — with a shortage of social workers and other mental health professionals. This policy change would impact LGBTQ+ clients’ access to mental health services in those areas.

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