Texas legislators fighting new rule allowing social workers to deny service to LGBTQ, disabled clients

Sen. Jose Menendez, other leaders join to fight new ethics code update

SAN ANTONIO – Organizations and legislators continue to lash out after the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners voted to allow social workers to refuse service to people based on disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The board voted unanimously to change the code of conduct protections one week ago on Oct. 12.

“Not only will our community suffer, but the disabled community will suffer. I know specifically for our community, LGBTQIA+ folks are already at a disproportionate level of being vulnerable to self-harm and other issues, and this will only further add to that problem,” said Pride Center San Antonio Executive Director Robert Salcido.

State legislators are hearing calls for intervention from organizations like the Pride Center.

“You’re at one of your lowest points already and someone tells you, ‘I’m sorry my religious beliefs will keep me from treating someone like you.’ You know what? If that’s how you feel, don’t take that job. Don’t be in that line of work if that’s going to put you in front of people that need help,” said State Sen.Jose Menendez.

Menendez announced Monday that he has joined State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez from Dallas, who chairs the House LGBTQ Caucus.

Together they have pledged to fight to overturn the code change and introduce legislation that stops similar changes from happening in the future.

“I am going to reach out to every senator and every house member and every elected official in the state to make their voices are heard with this board,” Menendez said.

New Texas rule lets social workers turn away clients who are LGBTQ or have a disability

It’s a statement that Salcido is grateful to hear.

“Social workers are the very people that are meant to be unbiased and to offer that support to somebody that is already experiencing a dark time or needing help navigating through their experiences,” he said.

Members of the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners said Gov. Greg Abbott’s office recommended the change because the code’s nondiscrimination protections went beyond protections laid out in the state law that governs how and when the state may discipline social workers.

However, with all the backlash, The Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners and Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council have released a statement to KSAT, in part, saying they will bring this issue up again at the next meeting on Oct. 27.

The full statement reads:

"The Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners and Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council held a joint meeting on Monday, October 12th to consider adoption of the proposed changes to 22 TAC Chapter 781 published in the July 17th edition of the Texas Register.

As part of this rules package, the Board and Council considered changes to proposed new rule 22 TAC 781.301(a)(1) to align the text of the rule with the underlying statutory authority found in Section 505.451(13) of the Occupations Code. These changes were then adopted in an open meeting in accordance with the governing law.

While these changes reflect the agency’s duty to duly enacted statutes, the Board and Council recognize the importance of legal protection from discrimination. To that end, Chair Canseco has directed that the issue of discrimination by licensees be placed on the Council’s October 27th meeting agenda for further discussion and possible action.”

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