Texas finally sees sense and unanimously reverses rule allowing social workers to discriminate against LGBT+ people

LGBT Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the state capital on May 24, 2018 in Austin, Texas.

A Texas regulatory board has overturned a ruling that allowed social workers to freely discriminate against LGBT+ people, as well as people with disabilities.

On October 12, Texas Republican governor Greg Abbott pressured the state’s regulatory board, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners, to make a change to its code of conduct. 

Abbott and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton pressured the board to vote to eliminate language prohibiting social workers refusing to help people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The anti-LGBT+ governor said the change was necessary because the protections went beyond what was required by state law.

But on Tuesday (October 27), the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, or BHEC, saw sense and unanimously reversed the ruling.

According to NBC News, more than 24,000 people signed an online petition by the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers supporting the reversal, and the group applauded the BHEC’s decision.

Will Francis, the association’s executive director, said: “This was a big win today for advocacy, the board and for nondiscrimination.

“But this is still Texas, and there are not underlying protections for LGBT+ persons. So had these nondiscrimination protections been stripped away, that really would have left people vulnerable, so we need legislation that ensures that there is protection.”

However, although the BHEC reinstated protections for LGBT+ people and people with disabilities, it also voted to have attorney general Paxton, has historically voted against LGBT+ rights, give an official opinion.

LGBT+ rights organisation Equality Texas said an opinion from Paxton could dismantle protections for queer people once again, legitimising “an opinion from an attorney general who has built his career in part on promoting discrimination against LGBT+ Texans”.

Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez said in a statement: “We can attest that the October 12 vote and rule change did great harm to the mental health and wellbeing of many LGBTQ and disabled people across Texas.

“A good faith analysis of this issue affirms what is clearly written into state statute: the BHEC has the power to set ethical standards for licensed social workers.”