The state of Texas removed a webpage that offered resources to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth after one of Gov.Greg Abbott’s top Republican challengers said its content was “offensive” and inconsistent with ” Texas values ”.
The removal came shortly after candidate Don Huffines denounced the website in a video which he shared on Twitter.
“They promote transgender sex policies to young people in Texas,” Huffines said. “I mean really? It’s Texas. These aren’t Texas values. These aren’t Republican Party values. But obviously Greg Abbott’s values.
Patrick Crimmins, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said the page was removed from the department’s website six weeks ago “as part of a review.”
But the decision to deactivate the page received wider attention this week. after The Houston Chronicle reported internal agency emails that showed officials were concerned about Mr. Huffines’ comments.
Mr Huffines, a former Dallas state senator and owner of a real estate development company, announced in May that he would challenge Mr Abbott in the Republican primaries next March and ran as the most conservative candidate . Mr. Abbott is running for a third term.
“FOR YOUR INFORMATION. It’s starting to explode on Twitter,” wrote a department official, Marissa Gonzales, the day Mr. Huffines posted the video, according to copies of emails the agency provided to New York. Times.
Ms Gonzales, a spokesperson for the agency, said in the email that Mr Huffines was referring to a web page for a program called Texas Youth Connection. The page provided online resources for children and adolescents in state care, and included a section titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation”.
“Please note that we may need to remove this page or revise the content in some way,” Crimmins wrote to agency officials.
On September 1, the agency’s communications manager emailed the webmaster explaining that “the Texas Youth Connection (TYC) website has been temporarily disabled for a full review of its content.”
“This is done to ensure that its information, resources and references are up to date,” the email read.
Mr Abbott’s office did not respond to messages for comment.
The page was removed less than a month before parents of transgender children protested at the Texas Capitol in Austin, where the state Senate has repeatedly passed bills requiring transgender teenagers and child athletes. to compete on the basis of their sex assigned at birth rather than their sex. identity.
“State agencies know that LGBTQ + children are overrepresented in foster care and they know they face truly staggering discrimination and abuse,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, a human rights group, in a statement. “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.”
Mr Martinez said the site was closed at the start of Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. He cited statistics from the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, which showed that gay, transgender and non-binary youth who have been placed in foster care were much more likely to attempt suicide.
“Again and again this year,” he added, “we just ask that the lives of these children not be politicized. “
Before it was removed, the Texas Youth Connection page provided contact information for organizations and hotlines that could help LGBTQ youth who were feeling depressed, bullied or suicidal, according to screenshots from screen of pages provided by the agency. The section on “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” was three pages long and included a photo of smiling young people holding a rainbow flag.
The educational and support resources on this page are dedicated to help empower and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allied and non-heterosexual (LGBTQIA +) youth, their peers and their family “, the site mentioned. “Having support and resources is essential to meet the needs of youth and young adults. “
On Thursday, the Department of Family and Protective Services still had a link to a 2019 webinar that explained how inequalities in child protection systems disproportionately affect LGBTQ youth and children of color.