After an outcry from lawmakers and activists, a Texas regulatory board voted unanimously Tuesday to reverse an earlier rule change that would have let social workers refuse to help clients who are LGBTQ+ or have a disability.
The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) voted to undo another unanimous decision it made two weeks ago that removed such protections from the state's code of conduct for social workers, the Texas Tribune reports
The board initially struck down the protections at the recommendation of Gov. Greg Abbott's office, which maintained that the code went beyond existing law that governs how the state is allowed to regulate social work.
Gloria Canseco, who leads the board, said she regretted that the first vote had been "perceived as hostile to the LGBTQ+ community or to disabled persons," according to the Tribune
State Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, one of the lawmakers who authored a letter asking the board to reverse its change to the code, praised the reversal.
"It is courageous to do the right thing, when someone in power advises you otherwise," Menéndez said in an emailed statement. "We appreciate that this morning, BHEC made the decision to stand on the right side of history. We stand with our social workers — there is no place for discrimination in Texas."
BHEC also voted to ask Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican and Abbott ally, to rule on the legality of the reversal, the Tribune
reports. Paxton's office has traditionally opposed expanding protections for LGBTQ+ Texans.
"I urge you to join me in continuing the pursuit towards equality, and contact the Attorney General’s office expressing your support of BHEC’s decision to restore these protections," Menéndez said.
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