In mid-October, the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council and State Board of Social Work Examiners voted unanimously to change a section of its code of conduct that establishes when a social worker may refuse to serve someone. The change would no longer prohibit social workers from turning away patients on the basis of disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, removing critical protections for LGBTQ patients and patients with disabilities who seek social work services.

These changes would have had implications nationally for other service professions that provide similar code of conduct protections. While the Texas Psychological Association responded forcefully by submitting two sets of testimony with partners at the state level (testimony 1 (PDF, 82KB) | testimony 2 (PDF, 80KB)), APA collaborated nationally on a letter (PDF, 149KB) with the National Association of Social Workers, Family Equality, and the Center for Disability Rights expressing “our deep objection to the action the Behavioral Health Executive Council and the State Board of Social Work Examiners that stripped protections for LGBTQ citizens and people with disabilities from the social work code of conduct.”

APA brought bias research forward to combat the rationale that the anti-discrimination language was not needed in the social workers’ regulations to protect people with disabilities and LGBTQ communities since these groups are protected by other laws and regulations. “A case in point is that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not include LGBTQ people as a protected class. While the American Disabilities Act attempts to provide comprehensive anti-discrimination protections for the disabled, there continues to be widespread biases directed at many physically, cognitively, and mentally disabled people.”

Based on the swift state and national outrage over this action, including APA’s integrated advocacy work across the Public Interest, Practice Directorate and Advocacy Office, the Behavioral Health Executive Council and State Board of Social Work Examiners voted on October 27, 2020, to reinstate the original protections prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and disability.

For more information, contact Leo RennieAlan Nessman, or Ron Schlitter.