LGBTQ+ Texans, people with disabilities can no longer be refused help by Texas social workers

Texas Social Worker Change

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - On Tuesday, October 27, The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council voted unanimously to restore protections for LGBTQ+ and disabled clients to Texas social workers' code of conduct just two weeks after removing them.

East Texas News spoke with some Tyler area LGTBQ+ members and advocates about what this decision means to them.

After some backlash from advocates and lawmakers, the council voted Tuesday to undo a rule allowing social workers to turn away clients who are LGBTQ+ or have a disability

A family involved with Tyler Area Gays, Tara and Jennifer Gower, say they’re relieved to hear the vote go in their favor.

“I think it makes us feel better because we have two kids that we’re fostering, and we want to adopt, and it makes us feel better that maybe that’ll be easier to process. We just want to be treated like everybody else. We don’t mind going through loopholes like everybody else, we just deserve to have rights just like everybody else.”

In the Gowers' experience, they describe a past encounter when a social worker may have shown signs of discrimination.

“It seems like she pushed us a lot. We were wondering if she kind of had a discrimination against us. It’s like she was trying to use my seizures for a reason for us not to have kids, say it’s the seizures but really it’s because we’re lesbians.”

Governor Greg Abbott recommended removing language that prohibited social workers from turning away clients on the basis of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. An advocate with family within the LGBTQ+ community, Robin Kelly, says the discrimination has gone on for too long.

“To know that there are people out there who could possibly discriminate against someone, it hurts. When we saw the reversal this week, I was surprised, but in a good way.”

The Gower family says they’re excited for the victory.

Abbott’s office said nondiscrimination protections went beyond protections laid out in the state law that governs how and when the state may discipline social workers.

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