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National Social Work Organizations Oppose Elimination of Texas LGBTQ and Disability Protections

Washington, D.C. -- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) condemn the removal by the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners of a rule prohibiting social workers from discriminating against clients based on the client’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or disability.

This regulatory change, enacted October 12 at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott without any public comment, creates significant barriers to mental health and social care services for vulnerable Texans.

“Eliminating this rule is an unconscionable, stealth attempt to stifle progress toward full equality and minimizes the leadership social workers have demonstrated in advancing social justice” said Angelo McClain, CEO of NASW.

NASW and CSWE call for the rule, which was added to the Texas social work code in 2012 without objection by the governor, to be restored immediately. Further, these protections should be codified in state statute, which already prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, or age. Texas statute does not recognize sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and disability as protected classes. Although individuals are protected under other state and federal statutes, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, it is essential that these protections also be explicitly articulated in the social work code of conduct because these rules provide the guiding framework for day-to-day social work practice.

“Social workers are educated to recognize, reject, and resolve discriminatory practices and ensure that any person has access to critical mental and physical health services. Additionally, social workers are educated to recognize and manage any impact of their personal biases when working with diverse clients and constituencies. The updated regulation flies in the face of these core competencies that have guided the profession for decades. Every person has a right to quality mental and physical care, and any regulation that seeks to infringe on that right should be struck down,” said CSWE President and CEO Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW.

High proportions of LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities experience challenges in mental health including depression and anxiety. They also face hurdles in meeting their basic needs including housing and employment. Many of these individuals do not receive the services they need due to implicit and/or explicit discrimination. The current public health, economic and racial injustice pandemics only exacerbate these challenges and underscore the need for a fully available social work workforce.

Social workers are called by the NASW Code of Ethics to not discriminate or oppress any group or person, for any reason, and to speak out against systems that seek to do so. CSWE and NASW and the hundreds of thousands of social workers, educators, and students we represent will continue to promote anti-discrimination protections, not only in Texas, but throughout the country.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.