Texas' child welfare agency is being accused of removing a webpage that provided information about a suicide prevention hotline and other resources for young LGBTQ people, following criticism by one of Gov. Greg Abbott's primary challengers.
The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that Abbott challenger Don Huffines posted a video on Twitter in August accusing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services of "promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth." 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."
Also gone was the entire website for the Texas Youth Connection, a division of Family and Protective Services that steers young people in foster care to various resources, including education, housing and those on its LGBTQ page.
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"These are not Texas values, these are not Republican Party values, but these are obviously Greg Abbott's values," Huffines said in his video.
Abbott, who appoints the department's commissioner and nine-member council, didn't respond to the newspaper's request for comment. A spokeswoman for Abbott didn't immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday.
Patrick Crimmins, the department spokesman, declined to answer the newspaper's detailed questions.
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But agency communications obtained by the Houston Chronicle through a public records request showed employees discussed removing the "Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation" page in response to Huffines' tweet.
After he was contacted by media relations director Marissa Gonzales that the Huffines video was "starting to blow up on Twitter," Crimmins contacted Darrell Azar, the agency's web and creative services director, who oversees the page.
"Darrell -- please note we may need to take that page down, or somehow revise content," Crimmins wrote.
Ricardo Martinez, chief executive of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said LGBTQ kids are disproportionately represented in foster care and "face truly staggering discrimination and abuse."
"The state is responsible for these kids' lives, yet it intentionally removed a way for them to find help when they need it the most," Martinez said. "This action is unconscionable, and it reminds us that political aspirations are part of every attack on LGBTQ+ kids in Texas."
Huffines, one of three GOP primary challengers Abbott is facing next year, has criticized the governor's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the surge of migrants at the state's southern border.
Huffines, a former state senator, has claimed his campaign has prompted Abbott to take more conservative stances on certain issues.
In August, Abbott asked Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner 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.
Masters responded by agreeing with Abbott, classifying the surgeries as "child abuse." LGBTQ advocates say the surgery is rarely performed on children.