Instead of progressing, the Texas governor seems determined to take the state backwards.
Things were already challenging for people who are disabled or members of the LGBTQ community. Now, thanks to a move recommended by Texas Governor Greg Abbot, social workers can now send clients with needs away if they're in groups that are no longer protected. The Texas Board of Social Work Examiners voted to modify one of the sections in their code of conduct after the Republican governor recommended the move. The unanimous vote led to removing sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity from the nondiscrimination clause. So now, social work organizations in Texas can turn these people away.
Because of this, Texas officials have received a lot of criticism and have even been questioned by the National Association of Social Workers for going with the GOP governor's suggestion instead of seeking public comment. A representative from Abbot's office commented with what basically amounted to "tough luck," saying "It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature." Unfortunately, these groups are at increased risk of facing discrimination and advocacy groups aren't happy about the controversial move.
"It’s disturbing, even if it’s unintentional," said Will Francis, who is the director of the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. "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." In fact, seven advocacy groups have come togehter to release a statement denouncing the changes that will strip vulnerable people in Texas of their legal protection.
But it's not just about people with disabilities, either, and that's likely the motivation for this move by Abbot and his ilk. He's going after the protections that have helped LGBTQ people. "The social workers code of conduct previously helped ensure ethical treatment of all clients and prevented bias-motivated misconduct," said Ricardo Martinez, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Texas, according to the joint statement published on the Equality Texas website. "Now with the removal of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression from the code, LGBTQ+ folks who experience discrimination could face more obstacles to getting the help they need."
Emmet Schelling, the Executive Director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, is concerned that trans people will be targeted specifically, adding that at this time in the U.S., being potentially deprived of needed healthcare is a terrifying scenario.
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