Social workers in Texas can now refuse service to LGBTQ+ clients and clients with disabilities.
In a unanimous Monday vote, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners changed its code of conduct to allow discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability.
The vote struck down protections that had already been in place. The board banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2010 and gender identity and expression in 2012.
The move had been recommended by the office of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, as the code's former nondiscrimination protections went above and beyond those offered by state law, which oversees the disciplining of social workers. The governor's staff had urged the changes in an email last Friday, which sparked the vote just three days afterward.
The move sparked a swift condemnation. In a Q&A about the rule change -- held only after the vote had taken place, Austin-based social worker Tracy Abzug slammed it, reports The Texas Tribune.
"It's actually quite disturbing to me that the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners has agreed today to lower our standards as it relates to discrimination towards sexual orientation and gender identity," she said.
In response, the chair of the behavioral health council, Gloria Canseco, promised to revisit "the issue of gender" in an October 27 meeting, but did not clarify what that entailed or if it also encompassed sexual orientation.
Many social workers also took to social media to express their outrage.
Texas's Republican-led state legislature has consistently taken stands against extending employment and other protections to the LGBTQ+ community, going so far as to pass preemption measures that prevent Texas cities from enacting them.
Since LGBTQ+ Texans lack these protections in housing and employment, however, they have greater need of social services than their straight and cisgender counterparts. The new rule change will make accessing these services more difficult.