February 17, 2005
HRC Calls for Investigation into Censorship of GLBT Suicide Prevention Workshop
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign called for an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services today in response to news reports that the words "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender" were censored from the title of a suicide prevention workshop aimed at reaching GLBT young people. The letter from HRC Vice President for Policy & Strategy David M. Smith to Acting HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson follows:
Dear Mr. Levinson:
We are requesting your assistance in calling for an investigation of recent allegations of censorship at a federally-funded suicide prevention conference to be held on February 28, 2005, in Portland, Oregon.
Several news sources, including The Washington Post ("Request to Edit Title of Talks on Gays, Suicide Stirs Ire HHS is Being Accused of Marginalization," 2/16/2005, A17), have devoted significant coverage to this story. Specifically, our concerns center on a scheduled presentation at the Portland conference that was previously entitled, "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals." According to one of three specialists slated to lead the session, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) officials requested that the words "gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender" be omitted from the title, that the term "gender identity/expression" not be used, and that a session on faith-based suicide prevention be added.
The Human Rights Campaign is concerned that this action may be part of a larger pattern of politics undermining the independence and integrity of the health and science arena. With growing concern, the Human Rights Campaign and its allies have been tracking developments such as attempts to defund individual National Institute of Health (NIH) grants dealing with sexual health and the transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Quite simply, the Human Rights Campaign believes that scientific and health decisions (such as determining the content of health conferences) should be left to scientists and health specialists, those individuals who are best equipped to make decisions about the merits and benefits of research. Federal government attempts to use funding to inject politics and ideology into science will only erode the integrity of the research system and undermine the faith of the public.
The health and safety of our nation depend on the free exchange of quality health research. Politics should never be put ahead of the life and death health needs of our nation's young people.
As the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign opposes any attempt to censor GLBT-themed research, but we also oppose any attempt to blur the lines between science and politics. We reiterate our request for an investigation into the troubling reports of government censorship at the Portland suicide prevention conference.
Thank you for your time, effort, and consideration. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Praveen Fernandes on my staff at (202) 216-1559.
David M. Smith
Vice President for Policy & Strategy