HHS Parents Website Changed Following Complaints

by Admin

'Giving people honest and unbiased information is always the right thing to do,' said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign sent the following letter to the Health and Human Services acknowledging positive changes to the website www.4parents.gov and emphasizing improvements that still need to be made. In a letter sent March 28, 2005, HRC raised concern about content on the website that perpetuated misperceptions that are harmful to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth and their families.

May 11, 2005

Secretary Michael O. Leavitt
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Leavitt:

On behalf of the more than 600,000 members of the Human Rights Campaign, I write to thank you for some of the incremental improvements to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, www.4parents.gov. In our March 28, 2005, letter to you, we applauded HHS for acknowledging the role of parents in educating their children about issues of health and sexual development, but expressed our disappointment that the material on your website was incomplete and perpetuated some dangerous misperceptions that were harmful to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and their families. The parts of the website that we found particularly problematic included the sections on sexual orientation and contraception.

While routinely checking the 4parents website yesterday, my staff discovered that some changes had been made to the section on sexual orientation. While the section could certainly still be strengthened, we are immensely grateful for the fact that some of the changes are marked improvements to the old text. Many of these changes reflect suggestions that the Human Rights Campaign made in its March 28, 2005 letter to you. For instance, we note with appreciation the following changes:

ᄡthere is now an acknowledgment of the need to express messages of love and acceptance to children who might be questioning their sexual orientation or their gender identity/expression

ᄡthe text in the sexual orientation section no longer uses the outdated and inaccurate term &quotalternative lifestyles&quot and

ᄡthe discussion of sexual orientation no longer assumes that all parents will need to seek the assistance of professional counselors or therapists, yet acknowledges the fact that some parents might need help in &quotunderstanding, communicating, and supporting their child.&quot

Giving people honest and unbiased information is always the right thing to do.

As we note with gratitude these improvements to your website, we express our concern that other changes have not been made. We note with some disappointment that the term &quotlifestyle&quot is still used, despite the growing body of scientific evidence that sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are genetically linked, not matters of mere choice. Further, we reiterate our concerns that your discussion of contraception, including your discussion on condoms, continues to focus on failure rates and the ability to be misused. We pledge our willingness to work with you to further strengthen your website, so that it can truly serve its purpose to help all parents and families.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this further, either alone or along with some of our valued public policy partners who we know have been engaged on this topic. These organizations include nonpartisan groups such as the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese
President



WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign sent the following letter to the Health and Human Services acknowledging positive changes to the website www.4parents.gov and emphasizing improvements that still need to be made. In a letter sent March 28, 2005, HRC raised concern about content on the website that perpetuated misperceptions that are harmful to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth and their families.

May 11, 2005

Secretary Michael O. Leavitt
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Leavitt:

On behalf of the more than 600,000 members of the Human Rights Campaign, I write to thank you for some of the incremental improvements to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, www.4parents.gov. In our March 28, 2005, letter to you, we applauded HHS for acknowledging the role of parents in educating their children about issues of health and sexual development, but expressed our disappointment that the material on your website was incomplete and perpetuated some dangerous misperceptions that were harmful to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and their families. The parts of the website that we found particularly problematic included the sections on sexual orientation and contraception.

While routinely checking the 4parents website yesterday, my staff discovered that some changes had been made to the section on sexual orientation. While the section could certainly still be strengthened, we are immensely grateful for the fact that some of the changes are marked improvements to the old text. Many of these changes reflect suggestions that the Human Rights Campaign made in its March 28, 2005 letter to you. For instance, we note with appreciation the following changes:

ᄡthere is now an acknowledgment of the need to express messages of love and acceptance to children who might be questioning their sexual orientation or their gender identity/expression

ᄡthe text in the sexual orientation section no longer uses the outdated and inaccurate term "alternative lifestyles" and

ᄡthe discussion of sexual orientation no longer assumes that all parents will need to seek the assistance of professional counselors or therapists, yet acknowledges the fact that some parents might need help in "understanding, communicating, and supporting their child."

Giving people honest and unbiased information is always the right thing to do.

As we note with gratitude these improvements to your website, we express our concern that other changes have not been made. We note with some disappointment that the term "lifestyle" is still used, despite the growing body of scientific evidence that sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are genetically linked, not matters of mere choice. Further, we reiterate our concerns that your discussion of contraception, including your discussion on condoms, continues to focus on failure rates and the ability to be misused. We pledge our willingness to work with you to further strengthen your website, so that it can truly serve its purpose to help all parents and families.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this further, either alone or along with some of our valued public policy partners who we know have been engaged on this topic. These organizations include nonpartisan groups such as the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese
President

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