A conservative Republican senator calls for action on ‘acute’ suicide crisis for LGBTQ youth
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A conservative Republican senator marked Pride Month on the Senate floor with a call to action over an “acute” suicide crisis among LGBTQ youth.
“A suicide epidemic has touched all sectors of our society,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said last week. “But the problem is particularly acute among LGBT youth who experience bullying and discrimination at every turn. In the most devastating cases, these teenagers even face estrangement from their own families.”
Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2016.
About 40 percent of transgender adults reported having attempted suicide at least once, and nearly all of those instance — 92 percent — were when they were younger than 25, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Hatch’s speech Wednesday came after a new report by the CDC found suicide rates have risen in nearly every state, including a 46.5 percent increase in Utah between 1999 and 2016.
The conservative GOP legislator, who is retiring after this year, said he was devoting much of his speech to “my young friends in the LGBT community.” But he also went broader in light of the spiking suicide rates around the country.
“It is also a call of action to Americans of all political stripes,” Hatch said. “Regardless of where you stand on the cultural issues of today, whether you are a religious conservative, a secular liberal or somewhere in between, we all have the special duty to each other. That duty is to treat one another with dignity and respect. It is not simply to tolerate, but to love.”
Hatch has not shown himself to be a liberal on social issues. Last week, in a statement, that he applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a Colorado baker has a First Amendment right to refuse to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couples.
The Trevor Project, which is dedicated to preventing suicides among LGBTQ youth, hopes federal legislators can help stem the crisis.
“As The Trevor Project works with legislators to educate them on the negative impact that results from cultural rejection of LGBTQ youth, senators like Hatch realize that it is up to them to use their voice and platform to save lives,” the group’s advocacy director said in a statement to ABC News.
The advocacy group cited Hatch’s support for a bill to create a three-digit national suicide hotline number, similar to 911.
“Every minute we wait we have helpless, hundreds of Americans who are struggling with suicidal thoughts,” Hatch said of the proposed hotline in his speech. “There are literally lives on the line and leaving them on hold is not an option.”
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