HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Texas social workers are now allowed to turn down services based on a client’s sexual orientation or disability.
“I’ve noticed it’s just really hard for queer or trans people to want to take the step to connect to resources they need,” South Texas Equality Project President Gabriel Sanchez said. “ And this new law allowing the legalization of discrimination in that field will just add another barrier to people accessing services they need.”
During a board meeting held this week, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners met and voted to change an item in its code of conduct prohibiting social workers from refusing service to someone based on disability or sexual orientation.
Sanchez says this decision enables discrimination and goes against what social work should be about.
“I think if you want to enter the social work profession, you should be doing it with the intention of helping people — bettering the lives of others,” he said.
STEP serves as a coalition of organizations that support and advocate for the LGBTQ-plus community, who Sanchez says often rely on social services for housing assistance, medical treatments and crisis intervention.
He urges those targeted not to be discouraged by the state board’s decision and encourages they reach out to STEP if they do experience discrimination in trying to access certain resources.
“To people affected by this new ruling, I’m so sorry,” he said. “There are affirming providers out there. There are people who are willing to help you. It’s just going to be a little harder to possibly find them now.”
Sanchez says while this decision is devastating for the LGBTQ community, it fuels them to stay politically active and vote for leaders who serve their interests.
“What we’re trying to do right now is raise awareness of the importance of voting and the importance of participating in the civic process to elect the people making these decisions,” he said.
Others from STEP say they fear this ruling will set a precedent for further discrimination against minority populations.