The State of Texas removed a web page that offered resources to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth after one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Republican primary challengers said its content was “offensive” and out of line with “Texas values.”
The removal occurred shortly after the candidate, Don Huffines, denounced the website in a video that he shared on Twitter.
“They are promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth,” Mr. Huffines said. “I mean, really? This is Texas. These are not Texas values. These are not Republican Party values. But these are obviously Greg Abbott’s values.”
Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman 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 disable the page received broader attention this week after The Houston Chronicle reported on internal agency emails that showed that officials were worried about Mr. Huffines’s comments.
Mr. Huffines, a former state senator from Dallas and the owner of a real estate development company, announced in May that he would challenge Mr. Abbott in the Republican primary next March and has touted himself as the more conservative candidate. Mr. Abbott is seeking a third term.
“FYI. This is starting to blow up on Twitter,” one department official, Marissa Gonzales, wrote on the day that Mr. Huffines posted the video, according to copies of the emails that the agency provided to The New York Times.
Ms. Gonzales, a spokeswoman 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 teenagers in state care, and it had a section titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.”
“Please note we may need to take that page down, or somehow revise content,” Mr. Crimmins wrote to agency officials.
On Sept. 1, the agency’s communications manager sent an email to the webmaster explaining that “the Texas Youth Connection (TYC) website has been temporarily disabled for a comprehensive review of its content.”
“This is being done to ensure that its information, resources and referrals are current,” the email stated.
Mr. Abbott’s office did not respond to messages for comment.
The page was taken down less than a month before parents of transgender children protested in the Texas Capitol in Austin, where the State Senate has repeatedly passed bills to require transgender teenage and child athletes to compete according to their sex assigned at birth rather than their gender identity.
The decision to take down the web page infuriated L.G.B.T.Q. rights activists and organizations, who accused Mr. Abbott of prioritizing his political interests over the safety and well-being of marginalized young people.
“State agencies know that LGBTQ+ kids are overrepresented in foster care and they know they face truly staggering discrimination and abuse,” Ricardo Martinez, the chief executive of Equality Texas, a rights group, said in a statement. “The state is responsible for these kids’ lives, yet it actively took away a resource for them when they are in crisis.”
Mr. Martinez said that the site was taken down 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 L.G.B.T.Q. youth, that showed that gay, transgender and nonbinary young people who have been in foster care were much more likely to attempt suicide.
“Again and again this year,” he added, “we are simply asking that these kids’ lives not be politicized.”
Before it was taken down, the Texas Youth Connection page provided contact information for organizations and hotlines that could help L.G.B.T.Q. youth who were feeling depressed, bullied or suicidal, according to screenshots of the pages that the agency provided. 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 helping empower and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally and non-heterosexual (LGBTQIA+) youth, their peers and family,” the site said. “Having support and resources is critical in addressing 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 discussed how inequities in child welfare systems disproportionately affected L.G.B.T.Q. youths and children of color.