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Texas Attorney General Says State Board Can’t Ban Social Workers From Discriminating Against People Who Are LGBTQ

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Texas attorney general says state board can’t ban social workers from discriminating against people who are LGBTQ or have a disability” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a nonbinding legal opinion Monday that a state board cannot forbid social workers from discriminating against LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.

The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which regulates social workers, has been in a monthslong debate over its code of conduct. In October, it removed language from the section that establishes when a social worker may refuse to serve someone, allowing social workers to refuse service based on someone’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

After facing intense backlash from social workers, lawmakers and advocates, the board reversed its decision just two weeks later, voting unanimously to restore the explicit protections. It also voted to request an opinion from Paxton’s office about the legality of its rule change.

Months later, Paxton’s opinion states that the board was authorized by the Legislature to punish social workers who refused work with clients based on aspects of identity like age, race and religion — but not their disability status, sexual orientation or gender identity. The board lacks the authority to add those three categories, he argues.

Additionally, he writes that state law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, so there are no higher grounds for the board’s protections.

The board has yet to announce how it will respond to the opinion. Legal opinions from the attorney general don’t carry the weight of law, but agencies and government officials often consult the opinions when determining what is permitted under state law.

Paxton also argues in the opinion that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity may be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. Since “religious and philosophical objections to categories of sexual orientation are protected views,” he writes, the board’s rule conflicts with the “longstanding constitutional protection” for religious expression.

Will Francis, executive director of the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said that opinion takes a “very narrow reading” that ignores the core question of what constitutes ethical practice and how the board is allowed to delineate that through its code of conduct.

“It puts forth a political agenda in lieu of actually looking into the statutory obligations of the board,” he said. He noted that the code of conduct that prevents discrimination “isn’t about First Amendment rights — it’s about access to services.”

By encouraging the removal of the protections, he said, the opinion risks discouraging people in need from seeking these essential services.

“They have just opened the door for a social worker to discriminate based on disability, and nothing can be done about him from a licensing standpoint,” he said. “That’s an incredibly, incredibly dangerous precedent to set.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/14/texas-social-workers-lgbtq-discrimination/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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‘Taking Us All for Fools’: Critics Decimate Greg Abbott’s Claims and Defense of His Actions in Wake of School Shooting

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in a press conference that left reporters frustrated defended his actions and insisted his earlier praise for law enforcement’s widely criticized response to the Uvalde school massacre was the result of being “misled.”

“I am livid about what happened,” Abbott declared, blaming others for his “recitation of what people in that room told me.”

Critics aren’t buying his claims.

Abbott, who’s in the middle of a heated re-election campaign, appeared extremely defensive when reporters asked him questions.

“Let’s be clear about one thing. None of the laws I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all,” Abbott told reporters when asked if he would call the legislature back for a special session, as The Texas Tribune’s Sewell Chan noted.

“No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun,” Abbott insisted.

“The answers fell pretty flat,” opined MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, who noted the press event lasted just 36 minutes, less time than the police officers “stood outside and did nothing,” which was 47 minutes.

Abbott ended the press conference with many reporters almost begging him to take more questions. As the governor left one frustrated reporter was caught on a hot mic saying “unbelievable.”

Chan, who is the editor in chief of the Tribune, added on Twitter: “Abbott rejects background checks as a simplistic and ineffective fix. Wouldn’t have prevented Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe shootings, he says. Tries to turn focus to broken mental health system.”

Former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC delivered a strong rebuke to Governor Abbott’s remarks.

“No amount of free flights, no amount of free caskets, no amount of mental health counseling is going to bring back any one of those murdered children,” Figliuzzi said, referring to Abbott’s announcement an anonymous donor is putting up  $175,000 for funeral expenses of those who were murdered in the shooting and said the state will pay for mental health treatment.

Abbott also insisted that since Texas became a state it’s been legal for 18-year-olds to buy long guns.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered in the Parkland school shooting, blasted Abbott:

And long guns of today, as Figliuzzi noted, are often semi-automatic “killing machines.”

“The governor seems completely unable to understand that he can easily make a distinction when you’re talking about whether an 18-year-old should buy an assault rifle or not. And all he cares about is a century of history in Texas on long guns. We didn’t have the AR-15 style assault weapons back then.  He can easily make a distinction and say, ‘you can go hunting, here are the rifles you can do, you can buy, you can possess – and here’s an assault-style rifle.'”

“If he thinks that people are stupid and unable to understand that there is a clear distinction between a killing machine and a hunting rifle, that he’s taking us all for fools.”

 

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‘I Apologize for Interrupting Your Press Conference’: Tearful Texas Democrat Urges Greg Abbott to ‘Do Something’ on Guns

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The Texas Democratic State Senator who represents Uvalde stood up during Greg Abbott’s Friday afternoon press conference and almost begged the Republican Governor to “do something” about gun violence after Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School that took 21 lives.

Abbott was trying to place the blame for the school shooting on mental health despite the gunman having no documented issues, and told attendees, “we’re focusing our attention on the wrong thing.”

That was not good enough for Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who politely introduced himself and said, “I’m not making a political speech.”

“My colleagues are asking for a special session, you’re getting a letter tomorrow,” from the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“We’ve asked for gun control changes – I’m asking you now, bring us back in three weeks.”

Gutierrez grew emotional, sounding as if he was choking up, and added, “I apologize for interrupting your press conference about the needs of this community. I’ve been here for three days with all of these elected officials – this county judge has been working his ass off,” he continued.

“I don’t know how to express the loss of the families that I’ve talked to,” he added.

“You have to do something, man,” Gutierrez said, all but begging the governor to take action, and saying his “own colleagues are calling me and telling me this is enough.”

Watch:

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Local Texas Cops Blocked Specialized Federal Tactical Team That Killed Shooter From Engaging for One Hour

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When a specially equipped U.S. Border Patrol tactical team arrived on the scene of Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, local police who were already on the scene wouldn’t allow them to engage with the shooter, The New York Times reports.

“The agents from Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrived at some point between 12 p.m. and 12:10 p.m., according to the officials — far earlier than previously known,” The Times’ report stated. “But they did not breach the adjoining classrooms of the school where the gunman had locked himself in until a little before 1 p.m. Members of the federal tactical team killed the gunman.”

But officials speaking to The Times say the Uvalde Police Department prevented the agents from going in sooner.

The new details further call into the question the thinking behind how law enforcement responded to the shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers. The Border Patrol and ICE agents say they did not understand why they were force to wait. All of the 21 victims died in the area where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos had barricaded himself in.

IN OTHER NEWS: Christian summer camp ‘rebuked’ girls who reported assault and told them to ‘forgive’ assailant: report

Read the full report at The New York Times.

 

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