Texas officials in late August took down two web pages that provided resources for LGBTQ youth – including a link to a suicide prevention hotline – hours after criticism from one of Gov.Greg Abbott’s top Republican challengers.
The nominee, Don Huffines, who owns a real estate development company in the Dallas area, wrote on Twitter on August 31: “It’s offensive to see @GregAbbott_TX using our taxes to defend transgender ideology. It must stop.
He described a web page on the Department of Family and Protective Services website titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation”.
“They talk about helping ’empower and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, allied,’ non-heterosexual behaviors, and it goes on and on,” Huffines said in a video. “I mean really? It’s Texas. These aren’t Texas values. These aren’t Republican Party values. But obviously Greg Abbott’s values.
In a separate tweet the same afternoon, Huffines linked to a webpage for Texas Youth Connection, a program run by the Department of Family and Protective Services, which included a link to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit suicide prevention and intervention group. crisis among LGBTQ youth; and other LGBTQ rights groups.
“This is the webpage where people named by @GregAbbott_TX promote transgender ideology,” Huffines wrote.
A few hours later, both pages had been deleted.
“The Texas Youth Connection website has been temporarily disabled for a full review of its content,” a post on the website read. “This is done to ensure that its information, resources and references are up to date. “
It provides links to the Texas Youth Helpline and the department’s Adult Life Skills Program. The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity page now displays an error message.
Patrick Crimmins, director of communications for the Department of Family and Protective Services, said in an email Tuesday that the review of the web pages “is still ongoing” and would not provide further comment on the reasons for which pages were deleted.
Abbott’s office did not return a request for comment.
The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that emails obtained via a request for public documents show agency officials discussed the removal of the gender identity and sexual orientation webpage in response to the tweet. of Huffins.
Just 13 minutes after the Huffines video aired, Marissa Gonzales, the department’s director of media relations, emailed Crimmins a link with the subject line “Video of Don Huffines accusing the government / DFPS of promoting the liberal transgender agenda, ”The Chronicle reported. She wrote in the body of the email: “FYI. It’s starting to explode on Twitter.
Crimmins emailed Darrell Azar, the department’s director of web and creative services. He asked who was running the page and wrote, “Darrell – please note that we may need to remove this page or revise the content somehow,” according to the Chronicle.
Azar responded that the webpage was from the ministry’s Adult Life Skills Program, which supports older teens in state foster care. He wrote that the content criticized by Huffines is “only a few years old” but that the Adult Living Program has been posting “LGBTQ-related content for as long as I can remember,” according to the Chronicle.
Huffines took credit for removing the pages in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Greg Abbott was using taxpayer dollars to defend transgender ideology and the human rights campaign,” he wrote. “Our campaign made him stop.”
Former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, who was housing and urban development secretary in the Obama administration, said the decision to remove the web pages was “disgusting.”
“Greg Abbott is so afraid of losing his primary that he’s sabotaging an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention hotline to bend his extremist base,” he wrote on Tuesday.
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of LGBTQ rights group Equality Texas, said in an emailed statement that LGBTQ children are overrepresented in foster care and “face truly staggering discrimination and abuse.”
“The state is responsible for the lives of these children, but it has actively taken a resource away from them when they are in crisis,” he said. “Worse yet, it was done at the start of Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. LGBTQ youth who have been placed in foster care report a three times higher likelihood of attempting suicide in the past year (according to a Trevor Project research file). Again and again this year, we simply ask that the lives of these children not be politicized.
Texas has considered more than 50 bills this year that target LGBTQ youth, especially transgender youth, according to Equality Texas.
While advocates have rejected all bills so far, the Legislature recently began a special third legislative session – the fourth legislative session in total this year – and it is revisiting a number of bills. anti-transgender.
Advocates said the rhetoric of the bills was having a negative effect on the mental health of LGBTQ youth across the state.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 30, crisis calls from LGBTQ youth in Texas were up 150% from the same time last year, according to data shared last week by the Trevor Project.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME at 741741 to reach a trained counselor on the Crisis Text Line. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/ressources for a list of additional support networks.
To follow NBC output to Twitter, Facebook & Instagram