Social workers can freely discriminate against LGBT+, as well as people with disabilities, thanks to the administration of Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott as of Monday (12 October).
The lawmaker, who once signed a bill banning discrimination against businesses with anti-LGBT+ views amid boycotts against Chick-fil-A, pressured the state’s regulatory board, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners, to make the change to its code of conduct.
Flipping a 2010 and 2012 LGBT+ protections, Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton pressured board leaders to vote to rejig the rules in favour of homophobes, the Texas Tribune reported.
The move was hailed by the country’s top social worker organisation, the National Association of Social Workers, as “incredibly disheartening”.
It comes after Abbott signed legislation in 2019 to bar businesses from being discriminated against for their anti-LGBT+ views. “Discrimination is not tolerated in Texas,” he said, somehow devoid of all irony.
Republican governor pressured board to make social workers discriminating LGBT+ people perfectly legal.
Abbott, the board members claimed, lobbied for the change because the code of law offered service users protections beyond what is provided by state law.
“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” said Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze.
The vote itself happened during a joint meeting between the board and the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which managed mental health regulatory agencies.
Yet, for social workers themselves, a sense of unease. Steven Parks, who works with child trauma victims at a private practise in Houston, called the change “both a professional and a personal gut-punch”.
“There’s now a grey area between what’s legally allowed and ethically responsible.
“The law should never allow a social worker to legally do unethical things.”
He stressed that the policy change will undoubtedly crater LGBT+ mental health even further: “There’s research to show that members of the queer community are at higher risk for trauma, higher risk for all sorts of mental health conditions.”