Social workers in Texas have to abide by the Texas Administrative Code, which is a code of conduct that establishes when it is and isn’t okay for a social worker to refuse service to someone. On Oct. 12, a unanimous vote changed that code of conduct and began to allow Texas social workers to deny some minorities; LGBT people and disabled people, specifically.
While there were those who supported the change, there were also many people who opposed it.
Social workers in Texas spoke to the Texas Tribune with their thoughts on the matter.
“There’s now a gray area between what’s legally allowed and ethically responsible,” Steven Parks said. “The law should never allow a social worker to legally do unethical things.”
Parks is a social worker in Houston who works with child trauma victims.
I saw the news on Twitter, and when I did, I was incredibly disheartened. Social workers are something that LGBT people often need, and to allow them to be turned away for the very reason they may need help is incredibly ironic. Twitter was flooded with angry tweets about the matter. While I was happy to see those responses, it didn’t do much to quell the worry that I was feeling.
You might be wondering why it’s such a big deal. If one social worker refuses an LGBT client, can’t they just find a different social worker?
Yeah, maybe they can. But if you look at the bigger picture, there are more details that need to be considered.
For instance, if the social workers are allowed to turn away LGBT clients, who else can? Why can’t the doctors? Why can’t the police? If we allow one group to deny services, other groups are going to begin arguing for their own ability to do so.
It’s also incredibly dehumanizing. Allowing LGBT people to be denied services based on their sexuality or gender identity takes away their classification of “Person” and emphasizes the “LGBT” in a way that suggests LGBT is all they are.
Although I’ve been focusing on the LGBT aspect of the matter, it’s important to bear in mind that everything I’ve said thus far also applies to those with disabilities. Disabled people need social workers just as much, and having them taken away will complicate so many lives.
There is good news, however.
On Oct. 24, the ruling was reversed due to the severe backlash the original vote garnered.
According to NBC, “The Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers applauded the reversal and said over 24,000 people had signed its online petition protesting the decision to remove the protections.”
José Menendez is a Democratic state senator from San Antonio. He testified at the council meeting regarding the change.
“When anyone would propose to remove language that protects someone from being discriminated against simply because of who they are, that sends a message that you are fair game and you may not matter as much as anyone else," Menéndez said. "(The rule change) sends a message that advocacy matters, speaking up matters and by working together we can all make a difference."