After backlash, Texas board reverses decision allowing discrimination against people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ community by social workers

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Social Worker Examiners voted unanimously to reverse a rule change made earlier this month that got rid of discriminatory protections for those in the LGBTQ+ community, and those with disabilities.

Two weeks ago, the board voted to strike sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and disability from a section that outlines who social workers cannot turn away.

“I’d like to apologize to the members of the public for the anguish caused by actions of the council perceived as hostile to the LGBTQ+ community or to disabled persons,” Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council member Gloria Canseco said Tuesday, explaining the board had no ill-intent.

The Office of the Governor recommended the change to the board in order to more closely align with an existing statute.

After that decision, which was made without consulting social workers across the state, many social worker advocacy groups, LGBTQ+ groups and legislators criticized the change.

Canseco said Tuesday the statute they were trying to match is at least 20 years old, and sees the issue.

“Although this council is not authorized to change statutory law, we can certainly bring the outdated language to the attention of our legislators,” Canseco said.

Will Francis, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers’ Texas Chapter, said after that vote, “The reality is this sends the message that it’s okay to discriminate. And that in-and-of-itself may cause someone not to go for services. They could be afraid of that rejection, they could think that this person could turn them away.”

The board said at the meeting today it had no intention of discrimination, and was simply trying to comply with the Governor’s request. The board has submitted a request for an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on the ruling.

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