The Texas Child Welfare Agency is accused of removing a website that provided information about a suicide prevention hotline and other resources to young LGBTQ people, following criticism from one of Governor Greg Abbott’s primary challengers.
The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that Abbott challenger Don Huffines in August posted a video on Twitter accusing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services of “promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas teens.” Within hours of the video being posted, the webpage was removed.
The page appears in a section of the agency’s website called “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation”.
The entire site of the Texas Youth Connection, a department of family and protection services, has also disappeared, directing teens in nursing homes to various resources, including education, housing, and those on its LGBTQ site.
“It’s not Texas values, it’s not Republican party values, but it’s obviously Greg Abbott’s values,” Huffines said in his video.
Abbott, who appoints the department’s commissioner and council of nine members, did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment. A spokeswoman for Abbott did not immediately return an email from the Associated Press to seek comment Tuesday.
Patrick Crimmins, the department’s spokesman, declined to answer the newspaper’s detailed questions.
But agency communications obtained by the Houston Chronicle through a request for public records showed that employees were discussing the removal of the “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” page in response to Huffines’ tweet.
After being contacted by media relations director Marissa Gonzales about the Huffines video “starting to blow up on Twitter,” Crimmins contacted Darrell Azar, the agency’s web and creative services director who oversees the site.
“Darrell – be aware that we may have to take that page down or somehow revise content,” Crimmins wrote.
Ricardo Martinez, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said LGBTQ children are disproportionately represented in nursing homes and “face truly dizzying discrimination and abuse.”
“The state is responsible for these children’s lives, yet it deliberately removed a way for them to find help when they need it most,” Martinez said. “This act is compelling, and it reminds us that political aspirations are part of every attack on LGBTQ + children in Texas.”
Huffines, one of three GOPs primary challengers Abbott faces next year, has criticized the governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of migrants at the state’s southern border.
Huffines, a former state senator, has claimed that his campaign has led Abbott to take more conservative positions on certain issues.
In August, the Abbott Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner asked Jaime Masters to determine whether gender reassignment surgery for transgender minors is a form of child abuse. He also called on the agency to investigate parents whose children undergo the procedure if it finds such surgeries constitute abuse.
The Masters responded by agreeing with Abbott, classifying the operations as “child abuse.” LGBTQ advocates say the operation is rarely performed on children.