Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the state capital on May 24, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Drew Anthony Smith/Getty)
Social workers can freely discriminate against LGBT+, as well as people with disabilities, thanks to the administration of Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott as of Monday (12 October).
The lawmaker, who once signed a bill banning discrimination against businesses with anti-LGBT+ views amid boycotts against Chick-fil-A, pressured the state’s regulatory board, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners, to make the change to its code of conduct.
Flipping 2010 and 2012 LGBT+ protections, Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton pressured board leaders to vote to rejig the rules in favour of homophobes, the Texas Tribune reported.
The move was hailed by the country’s top social worker organisation, the National Association of Social Workers, as “incredibly disheartening”.
It comes after Abbott signed legislation in 2019 to bar businesses from being discriminated against for their anti-LGBT+ views. “Discrimination is not tolerated in Texas,” he said, somehow devoid of all irony.
Republican governor pressured board to make social workers discriminating LGBT+ people perfectly legal.
Abbott, the board members claimed, lobbied for the change because the code of law offered service users protections beyond what is provided by state law.
“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” said Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze.
The vote itself happened during a joint meeting between the board and the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which managed mental health regulatory agencies.
Yet, for social workers themselves, a sense of unease. Steven Parks, who works with child trauma victims at a private practise in Houston, called the change “both a professional and a personal gut-punch”.
“There’s now a grey area between what’s legally allowed and ethically responsible.
“The law should never allow a social worker to legally do unethical things.”
He stressed that the policy change will undoubtedly crater LGBT+ mental health even further: “There’s research to show that members of the queer community are at higher risk for trauma, higher risk for all sorts of mental health conditions.”
The governor of California Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that eliminates a disparity in sex offence laws treating LGBT+ people more harshly, despite attacks from the far-right, Donald Trump Jr and Ted Cruz.
In a low-key announcement on Friday (September 11) amid the wildfire emergency in the state, Newsom’s office confirmed he had signed SB 145 — one week after the state legislature approved the bill, penned gay Democratic lawmaker Scott Wiener.
Wiener was threatened with “public execution” after far-right conspiracy theorists latched onto the legislation, which closes a loophole in California’s sexual offence laws.
Under existing state law it is a crime to have sex with someone under the age of 18, but judges have a discretionary power to keep teenagers off the sex offenders’ register for having sex with someone of a similar age, such as a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old.
However, the powers only apply to “penile-vaginal intercourse”, which means that LGBT+ teens are liable to be added to the sex offenders’ registry for having consensual sex, where straight teens are not.
Far-right activists had launched baseless attacks on sex offence law
Wiener’s bill to fix the issue by applying the law evenly has led to him being smeared a a “paedophile” by followers of QAnon – the far-reaching but unfounded conspiracy theory that, among other things, claims Donald Trump is at war with an elite, international ring of Satan-worshipping child sex traffickers.
The attacks stemming from the conspiracist far-right were also elevated by leading Republicans, with Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump Jr and shock jock Rush Limbaugh all perpetuating falsehoods relating to the law.
Cruz claimed: “Priorities. Today’s CA Dems believe we need more adults having sex with children, and when they do, they shouldn’t register as sex offenders.”
Meanwhile, Trump Jr raged: “Why are Joe Biden Democrats working in California to pander to the wishes of pedophiles and child rapists? New California bill would lower penalties for adults who have sexual relations with a minor”.
Departing from both the truth and any plane of reality where truth exists as an objective construct, Rush Limbaugh opted to claim to his listeners: “Paedophilia is now legal in California. Now a 21 year old can have sex with an 11 year old, and not be listed on the sex registry as a sex offender.”
Fact-checkers have been working overtime to point out that nearly all of the viral claims spreading about the law are false – though social media giants Twitter and Facebook have done little to counter the spread of the falsehoods.
LGBT+ activists celebrate California governor’s decision to ignore hateful ‘misinformation campaign’
Celebrating the decision to sign it, Senator Scott Wiener said in a statement: “It’s appalling that in 2020, California continues to discriminate against LGBTQ people, by mandating that LGBTQ young people be placed on the sex offender registry in situations where straight people aren’t required to be placed on the registry.
“SB 145 simply ends that discrimination by treating LGBTQ young people the exact same way that straight young people have been treated since 1944.
“I am so grateful that Governor Newsom — one of the LGBTQ community’s strongest allies ever — once again has shown that he gets it and that he’s willing to support our community even when it’s hard.
“And the politics here are hard, with the massive Trump/QAnon/MAGA misinformation campaign against the legislation. The facts are clear: SB 145 simply ends anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Today, California took yet another step toward an equitable society.”
Equality California’s executive director Rick Chavez Zbur said: “We are incredibly grateful to Governor Newsom for his unyielding commitment to LGBTQ+ civil rights and social justice.
“Dr King said, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’ Signing SB 145 was the right thing to do.
“It was the right thing to do for LGBTQ+ young people, it was the right thing to do to keep our communities safe and it was the right thing to do for California.
“If we want a California for all, then we need a justice system that treats all Californians fairly and equally — regardless of who they are, what they look like or whom they love. That goal is at the core of SB 145.
“Thanks to Governor Newsom and Senator Wiener, California is one step closer to living up to our shared values of fairness, equality and justice for all.”
New Hampshire has become the second state within the past week that has updated its parentage laws to better protect all children and families, including those formed through assisted reproduction.
Governor Chris Sununu (R) has signed HB1162, which clarifies that the spouses of biological parents may seek to adopt their children. In these cases where “one of the adoptee’s parents will remain a parent”—as is the case for many LGBTQ couples—no home study is necessary. Alternatively, parents who create their families through assisted reproduction may petition for a court judgment of parentage “either before, during, or subsequent to the pregnancy,” which the court must issue within 30 days. In most cases, a court appearance will not be necessary. (Once again, adoptions or court judgments are more legally solid, especially across state and national borders, than simply having both parents’ names on the birth certificate.)
The new law also expands access to adoption by unmarried couples and updates the state’s parentage laws in gender-neutral and inclusive terms.
New Hampshire follows Rhode Island in updating its laws this month to better meet the needs of families today—the Ocean State passed a similar parentage law last week. Each state’s provisions are somewhat different, though, so do call the GLAD Answers hotline or consult your own a lawyer if you have any questions about these new laws.
Will Massachusetts also revise its parentage statutes before the end of this month, giving us a New England trifecta for the legislative session? Let’s hope so—and if you live in Massachusetts like me, call or e-mail your state senators and representatives immediately and ask them to support passage of H.1485 and S.1013. Also call Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D; 617.722.1500) and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo (D; 617.722.2500). GLAD and MassEquality in a webinar on July 10 suggested emphasizing not only the personal impact on children and families, but also increased efficiency (less clogging of the courts; less burden on DCF) and reduced costs—practical considerations that may sway lawmakers. A few other talking points are on this Fact Sheet from GLAD (pdf).
Yes, there are still hurdles aplenty for our families and our country—but let’s take heart that there can still be progress.