Blowin' in the Wind
Texas agency pulls website for LGBTQ youth, with suicide prevention info, after taunt from Abbott's GOP challenger
It isn't clear just how much the hard-right turn in Texas politics is being driven by Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) 2022 GOP primary rivals. But one of his main challengers, state Sen. Don Huffines (R), took credit Monday for the scramble by "state employees who are loyal to Greg Abbott" to pull down a state child welfare site with links to a suicide prevention hotline (866-488-7386) and other resources for LGBTQ youth. And he's probably right, the Houston Chronicle and The Texas Tribune reported Tuesday.
On Aug. 31, Huffines tweeted a video claiming the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is "promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth," adding: "These are not Texas values, these are not Republican party values, but these are obviously Greg Abbott's values." He was citing a DFPS page titled "Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation," with resources for LGBTQ youth in the foster care system.
Within hours, not only was that page gone, but so was the entire website for the Texas Youth Connection, a DFPS division that helps older teens prepare for life after foster care. The site now says it "has been temporarily disabled for a comprehensive review of its content."
Abbott appoints the DFPS's commissioner and nine-member policymaking council. DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said the review of the Texas Youth Connection site "is still ongoing." He did not answer questions about what prompted the "review."
But emails obtained by the Chronicle and Tribune show that 13 minutes after Huffines posted his video, DFPS media relations director Marissa Gonzales alerted Crimmins that it "is starting to blow up on Twitter," in an email titled "Don Huffines video accusing Gov/DFPS of pushing liberal transgender agenda." Crimmins told Darrell Azar, DFPS's web and creative services director, that "we may need to take that page down, or somehow revise content," and Azar said the page came from the department's Preparation for Adult Living program, which has posted "content related to LGBTQ for as long as I can remember," though the page Huffines targeted is "only a few years old."
The Texas Observer's Justin Miller said Abbott's office was quickly invited to review the changes to the website, which was news to the Chronicle's Jasper Scherer, who broke the story.
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, slammed the state of Texas for "actively" taking away resources from vulnerable, at-risk, and "overrepresented" LGBTQ+ foster kids "when they are in crisis," noting they did this "at the start of Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month." All 13 Democratic state senators urged Abbott and DFPS Commissioner Jamie Masters to put the information back up.