AUSTIN, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Texas officials are facing backlash after deciding to allow social workers to turn away clients on the basis of their disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
At the direction of the governor’s office, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners voted unanimously to eliminate disability, sexual orientation and gender identity from the nondiscrimination clause of the code of conduct.
Part of the existing code reads:
A social worker shall not refuse to perform any act or service for which the person is licensed solely on the basis of a client’s age, gender, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or political affiliation.TEXAS STATE BOARD OF SOCIAL WORKER EXAMINERS CODE OF CONDUCT
The Office of the Governor recommended the change to the board in order to more closely align with existing statute.
The board made the decision during a joint meeting Monday with the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which oversees regulatory agencies for professions related to mental health.
The National Association of Social Workers criticized the board’s decision to follow the governor’s recommendation rather than seek public comment.
Will Francis, director of the association’s Texas chapter, told the board during public comments that their decision was “incredibly disheartening.”
Abbott’s office said the change was made simply to align the rules with the state’s Occupations Code, which determines how and when the state may discipline social workers.
“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” said Renae Eze, spokeswoman for Abbott’s office.
Francis said the board’s decision creates the impression that people with disabilities can be discriminated against despite federal rules that are in place to protect them.
“It’s disturbing, even if it’s unintentional,” Francis said. “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.”
The board’s next meeting is set for Oct. 27 and will be open to public comment.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KXAN contributed to this report.