CDC Indefinitely Postponed LGBT Youth Health Summit After Election

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LATE UPDATE Jan. 28, 6:06 PM: This post has been updated to include a statement from the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly and indefinitely postponed planning for an LGBT youth health summit after Donald Trump’s election to the White House, a source at the agency told TPM.

“This was supposed to be a big deal,” said the source, who requested anonymity given the politically sensitive nature of the cancellation. “They had a whole communications team on it, it was going to be on Facebook live. The intention was to plan a 5-year agenda.”

Copies of internal planning documents provided to TPM refer to a one-day gathering in which “national leaders” would meet at the CDC’s Roybal campus in Atlanta in order “to address the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth.” The source told TPM that staffers were first informed about the event in late September and weekly planning meetings were held through the week of the election.

A statement provided to TPM by CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell after this article’s publication, however, suggested that an internal decision to not move forward with the summit was made a few days before Election Day (full statement posted below).

Asked to clarify the timing of the summit’s postponement, Russell told TPM in a subsequent email that in the early stages of the formation of an LGBT workgroup proposed in the summit’s place, ”it was decided that a large meeting might not make sense until new leadership was in place among all of the federal partners.”

News of the summit planning’s cancelation comes days after partners working with the CDC on a climate change and health conference scheduled for February told news outlets that the long-planned event had been canceled due to concerns about the Trump administration’s reception of it.

The CDC source told TPM that organizers at the Division of Adolescent and School Health did not publicize the LGBT youth heath summit prior to the election in order to avoid drawing unwanted or politicized attention to the initiative.

The source said that event planners, assuming Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, had started putting together a list of potential partner organizations including the YMCA, Human Rights Campaign and Matthew Shepard Foundation, but were waiting until after Nov. 8 to extend formal invitations. The event was initially planned for mid-December, but planning documents show the date for the summit was pushed back in late October to Jan. 12.

“From the very beginning when we were talking about partner decisions it was made very clear that no discussions were to leave CDC and that the invitations would be sent out to the big national nonprofits the day after the election,” the source said.

Those formal invitations never went out. Preparations continued through Friday after the election, but the following week’s planning meeting was canceled without notice and replaced with a “next steps” conference call, according to the source. Organizers were thanked for their work and informed that the summit was postponed indefinitely on that call, while a new internal workgroup on LGBT youth health also was proposed, according to the source.

An email to staffers working on the event, dated Nov. 18 and reviewed by TPM, also stated that the summit was postponed.

“It was never actually explicitly said by anyone that we’re canceling this because Donald Trump won the election,” the source said.

Asked to clarify the timing of the postponement, Russell told TPM in a subsequent email that as the LGBT workgroup was in its early stages of formation “it was decided that a large meeting might not make sense until new leadership was in place among all of the federal partners.”

At least one of the nonprofits that the source said the CDC had been considering inviting to serve as an event partner after the election said the agency had indeed made some preliminary contact about the summit.

“The Y was invited to participate in some planning calls for the event, but that’s as far as our involvement went and we were made aware the event was postponed,” YMCA spokesman Kevin Dietz told TPM in an email.

Matthew Shepard Foundation executive director Jason Marsden said he did not recall any contact, while spokespeople for the Human Rights Campaign did not respond to TPM’s multiple requests for comment.

The sudden calling off of an event months in the making confused and upset organizers.

“The whole reason that I went to work in the CDC was because I wanted to devote my career to impacting health outcomes for sexual and gender minority youth. So to have been part of the planning committee for the convening of the summit and to have it ripped out away for me or at least canceled because people in leadership thought it was going to be a bad idea…” the source said, trailing off.

Read the CDC’s full statement below:

After release of the first data on the health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth in August 2016, CDC explored a variety of ways to address the identified disparities, including hosting a meeting. On November 4, we determined that a CDC-hosted meeting and engagement of participants in follow-up activities would violate The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

CDC shared the LGB youth data findings during its scheduled November 2016 update to the CDC/HRSA Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS (CHAC), an official federal advisory committee. During the CHAC meeting, members decided to form a workgroup to explore how governmental and non-governmental organizations can address the health and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Planning for the workgroup, which includes non-governmental expert consultants and governmental subject matter experts, began in December 2016. The first meeting of the LBGTQ youth health workgroup was held January 11, 2017.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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