In a move that has angered some gay rights organizations, Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan has sought to distance the Bush administration from a controversial HHS report on youth suicide because it says homosexuality is natural and urges steps to end discrimination against homosexuals.

Published a year ago, the four-volume report examines possible reasons for the tripling of the suicide rate among Americans ages 15 to 24 in the last 30 years.

Noting that homosexuals in this age group are about three times as likely as heterosexuals to try to kill themselves, the report concluded that homosexuality was one of the risk factors for youth suicide.

It called for efforts to eliminate discrimination against homosexual teenagers and young adults, greater awareness of their needs on the part of mental health counselors, and additional research.

The report infuriated conservative Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Calif.), who wrote to Sullivan, to former assistant secretary of health James O. Mason, and President Bush calling on them to publicly denounce the portions dealing with homosexuality. Dannemeyer is a longtime crusader against any form of tolerance of homosexuals.

Charging that the report failed to affirm "traditional family values," Dannemeyer quoted passages from a position paper in the report written by Paul Gibson, a San Francisco social worker, urging that parents, churches and society accept homosexuality as natural and healthy.

In a reply to Dannemeyer last October, Sullivan said, "I neither endorse nor approve the report from the Task Force on Youth Suicide." Noting that the report was written in the Reagan administration, Sullivan said he was examining its recommendations. He added that the views expressed by Gibson "do not in any way represent my personal beliefs or the policy of this department."

Urvashi Vaid, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said her organization wrote to Sullivan last October to request a meeting after learning of his letter to Dannemeyer, but received no response.

"We were very distressed," she said. "We very much want to meet with the secretary about this whole issue, because it is the first time Dr. Sullivan has said anything about gay issues or about gay people, to our knowledge."

HHS spokesmen said they could not locate Vaid's letter. They said Sullivan's letter does not mean that he rejected the report's overall recommendations.

"We are taking the recommendations of the task force to heart," a spokesman said. "The report is available. I am not aware of any effort not to distribute it."

But Dannemeyer spokesman Paul Mero provided a copy of a letter from Sullivan to Dannemeyer dated Jan. 3 in which Sullivan said that "the department printed 2,000 copies of the report and has no plans to reprint. The distribution by the department of the complete report was, therefore, limited."

Mero said Dannemeyer objected not only to the Gibson paper, but also to several of the report's recommendations. For example, it recommends that schools and youth organizations end discrimination on the basis of such characteristics as sexual orientation and that they "enlist adult group leaders who reflect the population of youth served."

Mero said such recommendations encouraged the view, also expressed in the Gibson paper, that homosexuality is normal for some people.

"The underlying premise is . . . that the reason they {homosexuals} are committing suicide isn't that they're troubled, but that society is persecuting them," Mero said. "We think that's a myth. It's something that we disagree wholeheartedly with."

Psychiatrists formally removed homosexuality from the profession's official list of mental disorders more than a decade ago, but they generally agree that homosexuals are at increased risk of depression and suicide. The report cites a 1978 study that found 18 percent of male homosexuals and 23 percent of lesbians had attempted suicide.

"I think suicide is the result of a depressive or psychotic illness," said Harold Eist, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who teaches at Howard University Medical School. "Regardless of sexual orientation, people can get these illnesses. If they're additionally stressed because of homophobia or whatever, that might contribute . . . to their feeling hopeless and despondent."

"It's not a matter to be taken lightly," he said. "It shouldn't become a political football."