Texas Backtracks Discrimination Protections in the Workplace

By Emily Cortes

Senator Greg Abbott’s suggestion to the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council and the state’s Board of Social Work Examiners, went into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 12. His motives were to align the state laws of Texas social work and care of endangered children with the state’s occupational code, citing, “[it] determines how and when the state may discipline social workers.” The vote was unanimous to remove the words which prohibit social workers from denying or turning away children who are in need of assistance, or may show signs of neglect, or abuse.

The progressive idea that no client will be denied assistance due to their, “disability; sexual orientation; gender identity and expression” is one that reflects the modern language and categorization needed to protect all people, especially children, when dealing with issues like the foster care system. 

Instead of changing the law to loosen the protections on children, Abbott should have advocated for change of the occupational code. That way, not only will children be protected in the hands of the foster care system, regardless of their disability, sexual orientation, gender and expression, but the social workers themselves can be both protected when following the law, and held accountable if they are intentionally turning away a child, specifically because of his/her minority group.

Peeling back protections for any American citizen is the complete opposite of a progressive policy put forward by a politician who is doing the job of a public servant. Instead, the motives of Abbott point to nothing but discrimination and prejudice. Abbott barely skated by the additional title of “racist” because he does allow the phrases, “political affiliation, race, color, sex, age, religion, or national origin.” A blatant vision of necessary protections stripped away by those who possess the power to protect. 

Abbott states that disabled people will not be affected directly due to the protections they have under the American Disabilities Act (ADA). If Abbott were to suggest changing a law that included denying protections for two separate groups, yet reassuring that one group was in fact protected under the constitutional law, then what would be his motives for also including the lack of sexual orientation protections?

The LGBTQ+ community is an extremely marginalized group that has existed for as long as humans, yet it is only now being accepted as a way to identify oneself, instead of having others identify an individual from their visual appearance. 

Amazing progress has grown in the fight for acceptance and understanding of a huge population of people who were previously silenced due to ignorance and hatred. Straight, cis-gendered people who don’t believe it is necessary to explicitly grant rights or protections to specific groups of people argue that these people already have freedom to do what they want, or they may argue that if it is not allowed by the law it should not be done because a lot of citizens do not want more laws imposed on them. However, those laws will only affect those who chose to openly discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation or disability.

Think of the example of marriage. You typically grow up understanding marriage to be between a man and a woman because that’s been the tradition forever. Since union between two people is biologically and intellectually driven, they began to incorporate this official union into religious practices. After those religious laws were established and heavily followed, they became foundations for federal law across lands, transferring the power of authority from a “god,” a higher power, or a combination of many different religious figures and spirits– and into the hands of another human, built and consisting of the same physical material, making us consistent down to the most minute cell.

However, these straight, cis-gendered people do not fully understand that the law was written to protect them: straight, cis-gendered people, specifically because at the time these protections were granted, it was not acceptable to go against the status quo. The law was also written by white, wealthy, cisgendered men. These men, at the time, only had regard for the people who also looked like them, acted like them, and socialized with them. This is exactly why women and slaves and poor people were excluded from all of these protections granted in 1776. The lawmakers of that time were only concerned about protecting themselves and policing everyone else. 

We are living under a law that was written to help certain types of people succeed. The law may not explicitly deem other groups unworthy of sharing in the same freedom, but by failing to explicitly acknowledge that these groups have a right to be protected by those policing them, is to suffocate growth and to selfishly hold power over people.

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