Politician accuses government agency of ‘promoting transgender sexual policies among young people in Texas’

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas child welfare agency is accused of taking down a webpage that provided information about a suicide prevention hotline and other resources for LGBTQ youth. , following criticism from one of Governor Greg Abbott’s main challengers.

The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Abbott’s challenger Don Huffines posted a video on Twitter in August accusing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services of “promoting transgender sexual policies among young people in Texas.” Hours after the video was posted, the webpage was taken down.

The page appears in a section of the agency’s website titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.”

The full website for Texas Youth Connection, a division of family and protective services that directs youth in foster care to various resources, including education, housing, and those on its LGBTQ page, is also gone.

“These are not Texas values, these are not Republican Party values, but obviously these are Greg Abbott values,” Huffines said in his video.

Abbott, who appoints the department’s commissioner and nine-member council, did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment. A spokeswoman for Abbott did not immediately return an Associated Press email seeking comment on Tuesday.

Patrick Crimmins, the department’s spokesman, declined to answer detailed questions from the newspaper.

But agency communications obtained by the Houston Chronicle via a public records request showed employees 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 that the Huffines video was “starting to explode on Twitter,” Crimmins reached out to Darrell Azar, the agency’s director of web and creative services, who oversees the page. .

“Darrell – please note that we may need to remove this page or revise the content in some way,” Crimmins wrote.

Ricardo Martinez, chief executive of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said LGBTQ children are disproportionately represented in foster care and “face truly staggering discrimination and abuse.”

“The state is responsible for the lives of these children, but it has deliberately taken away a way for them to find help when they need it most,” Martinez said. “This action is unconscionable and reminds us that political aspirations are part of every attack on LGBTQ+ children in Texas.”

Huffines, one of three main GOP challengers Abbott will face next year, criticized the governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of migrants to the state’s southern border.

Huffines, a former state senator, said his campaign prompted Abbott to take more conservative stances on some issues.

In August, Abbott asked Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters to determine whether sex reassignment surgery for transgender minors was a form of child abuse. He also called on the agency to investigate parents whose children have the procedure if it finds such surgeries constitute abuse.

Masters responded by agreeing with Abbott, calling the operations “child abuse.” LGBTQ advocates say surgery is rarely performed on children.