The HUD nominee has been an anti-LGBTQ+ crusader for years, and he’s never grasped the general concept of equality.
Yesterday was the confirmation hearing for Dr.Ben Carson—the former pediatric neurosurgeon and presidential candidate, who, a few months ago claimed through a proxy that his lack of experience made him a poor choice to run a federal agency. The entire affair was rather friendly (sans a signature push by Elizabeth Warren on potential conflicts of interest involving the PEOTUS) and only really served to prove that Carson has a very weak understanding of what the HUD does and what his job will be. And, when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, Carson either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care to.
During one exchange, Carson was asked by Sherrod Brown about LGBTQ+ discrimination protections:
“Your statement mentions your desire to improve lives of all families and communities, ‘no matter their race, creed, color or orientation.’ Yet you have in the past raised questions about whether LGBTQ people should enjoy the same rights as everyone else. Do you believe that HUD has a duty to take actions and promote equal access to housing opportunities for LGBTQ people?”
He starts off fine:
“If confirmed, in this position, of course I would enforce all the laws of the land. And I believe that all americans, regardless of any of the things that you’ve mentioned, should be protected by the law.”
Then his myopia and intolerance shines through:
“What I have mentioned in the past is the fact that no one gets extra rights. Extra rights means you get to redefine everything for everybody else.”
Nowhere in that question, or any other time Carson has responded in this way were any “extra rights” mentioned. For Carson, equal rights are considered extra rights. Last January, while being interviewed on a Catholic news network, Carson responded to a question about LGBTQ+ issues by saying:
“And you see how silly this is. It’s beyond ridiculous. That you take the most abnormal situation and then you make everybody else conform to it. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. That’s one of the very reasons that I have been an outspoken opponent against gay marriage. I don’t have a problem with gay people doing anything they want to do. It’s a free country. There’s freedom of association. However, when you now impose your value-system on everybody else and change fundamental definitions and principles of society, I have a big problem with that. Everybody is equal. Everybody has equal rights. But nobody gets extra rights. And when we start trying to impose the extra rights based on a few people, who perhaps are abnormal, where does that lead?”
I’d like to respond to this statement point by point:
“And you see how silly this is. (Silly?) It’s beyond ridiculous. (It’s certainly not.) That you take the most abnormal situation and then you make everybody else conform to it. (Not what anyone is asking for.) That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. (It makes perfect sense.) That’s one of the very reasons that I have been an outspoken opponent against gay marriage. I don’t have a problem with gay people doing anything they want to do. (Yes, you do. You’re saying you do right now. ) It’s a free country. (It’s kinda not, that’s the issue. ) There’s freedom of association. However, when you now impose your value-system on everybody else (not what’s happening) and change fundamental definitions and principles of society, (principles that exclude large groups of people) I have a big problem with that. Everybody is equal. (They’re not.) Everybody has equal rights. (They don’t.) But nobody gets extra rights. (Actually, they do, mostly white, straight people.) And when we start trying to impose the extra rights based on a few people, (no) who perhaps are abnormal, where does that lead? (to a more inclusive country.)”
To wit, he once lumped homosexuality in with beastiality on Fox News, and said gay marriage will lead to “mass killings” at a religious symposium, and, as GLAAD noted, he said those who support marriage equality are “directly attacking the relationship between God and his people.”
Carson’s views on gay rights are not uncommon. He believes that by granting members of the LGBTQ+ community the same rights afforded to straight individuals, the U.S. is redefining something, altering the landscape. He is not entirely incorrect. By widening the scope of marriage to include same sex couples, the U.S. changed the internal components of what, historically, has defined a marriage. But in terms of what marriage represents, the commitment of two people under the law, it’s exactly the same. And by protecting this community from housing, employment, law enforcement and healthcare discrimination we are not, in any way, affording them any extra rights. The conversation is entirely centered around equality, it’s a correction in the same way expanding voting rights was a correction.
Some stats courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
States where you can be fired for your sexual orientation: 27
States where you can be fired for your gender identity: 28
States where you can be evicted or denied housing for your sexual orientation or gender identity: 28
The concept of extra rights is wildly misinformed, and stunningly self-centered. Does Ben Carson think that the LGBTQ+ community is pushing for marriage licenses to be cheaper for them? Does he think they’re lobbying for government-funded ceremony discounts? Does he think they want to be placed ahead of straight people in the job market? Does he think they want to be moved to the top of the list for federal housing? Does he think they want free health insurance due to their sexual preference? Being misinformed to this level is the only logical explanation to his extra rights comment. In terrestrial reality, the LGBTQ+ community fought for the right to marry, period. They are still fighting to be protected against discrimination in a variety of the aforementioned arenas.
There is nothing extra about any of this.
That is an inarguable fact.
This man’s belief system is so regressive, and so stitched to the vilification of the other that he cannot see how utterly illogical his line of thinking is. It’s quite troubling that the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a position built around recognizing inequality, cannot seem to grasp the concept. And this extends far beyond LGBTQ+ issues.
Carson has stated that he believes government mandated desegregation, like the 2015 rules the Obama administration put forth, is “social engineering.” Of course, as Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute points out, the current urban landscape is a direct result of prior social engineering designed to split up the races in a way that historically benefitted whites. Thus, by not doing anything, by not admitting the brazen mistakes of the past, we are continuing to socially engineer. By attempting to correct it, we are aiming to dismantle a system that fosters inequality.
Ben Carson doesn’t get it. And he will soon be in charge of a government agency with a budget of $50 billion.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.