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Website discriminates against LGBT teens

By | 2017-10-31T06:34:45-04:00 October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

WASHINGTON – A new website launched by the Department of Health and Human Services targeting parents of teenagers both discriminates against LGBT teens and provides inaccurate information on the use of condoms according to advocacy groups like Human Rights Campaign.
The site,, which stresses the promotion of abstinence, is intended for parents who are embarrassed to talk about sex with their children, according to a statement last month from to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt.
On April 1, HRC joined 144 other advocacy groups in signing a letter to Leavitt criticizing the site.
According to HRC, the site omits any discussion of the need for parents to express love and support for their LGBT teens, uses the loaded term “Alternative Lifestyles” to discuss LGBT teens, and encourages parents to find “a family therapist who shares your values,” to provide therapy to LGBT teens. The sexual orientation discussion is also listed as a subsection of the subtopic “Abstinence,” which HRC calls “a counterintuitive place for this discussion,” given that LGBT individuals are currently denied the right to marry.
In the section on contraception, the subtopic on condom use stresses failure rates while also omitting clear information on the proper use of condoms.
According to a separate letter from HRC to Secretary Leavitt, “This is like discussing how seatbelts can kill when used improperly, without also discussing how to properly use seatbelts.”
“They’ve always opposed us on the issue of abstinence. That’s fine,” HHS spokesman Bill Pierce told the Associated Press April 1. “One thing we do know about abstinence is that if you practice it, you will not have an unintended pregnancy or risk catching a sexually transmitted disease.”
Cass Varner, youth services coordinator with Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center, called the site “unrealistic.”
“By refusing to discuss the realities of society today, [they are] denying our youth the opportunity to think, and to make decisions,” she said. “I would much rather discuss safe sex and ways to live a healthy lifestyle so at least they can be prepared.”
As for the anti-gay content of the site, Varner said, “I really think that the site is fostering continuing hatred and continuing ignorance. The fact is that there are lots of different kinds of people and refusing to acknowledge that is refusing to share a part of the world with your kids.”
Grace McClelland, the executive director of Ruth Ellis Center, which operates a shelter for homeless LGBT youth in Detroit, was angered after reading the site. “As someone who has been working with youth in communities of color for over 22 years, I saw that language about therapists and immediately thought, ‘So, if you’re a racist, does that mean that you also ought to find a family therapist who ‘shares your values,’ and help you perpetuate that prejudice onto others?'”
McClelland says that her center lost its funding last year because the federal government claimed that the agency was “creating barriers for heterosexual youth.” “Then they come out with this website and perpetuate archaic views of our children. It’s outrageous,” she said.
“It is because of the things that they’re (the Bush administration) doing now [that we need] the Ruth Ellis Center. As these people victimize our kids because of their hatred, we need Ruth Ellis Centers all over the country,” she added.

Speak OUT!

For more information on the new HHS website, visit
Contact Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and demand that the new site omit all discriminatory inferences against LGBT teens and provide complete and accurate information on all contraception, including condoms. Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20201.
Contact our U.S. Senators and your representatives and ask them to provide oversight to ensure that the Bush administration doesn’t get away with this and other acts of discrimination against LGBT youth and adults.
Senator Carl Levin – Call 202-224-6221. Email Senator Levin by visiting the Contact Center on his website at
Senator Debbie Stabenow – Call 202-224-4822 or TTY: 202-224-2066 or e-mail
To find your U.S. Representative, visit Project Vote Smart at or call the U.S. Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.