Ben Carson, President-elect Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on Thursday voiced his opposition to what he deemed “extra rights” when asked whether he believed the department should address issues faced by LGBTQ people.
Carson was questioned during his nomination hearing Thursday before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked Carson whether “HUD has a duty to take actions that promote equal access to housing opportunities for LGBTQ people.” Carson affirmed that he would follow the protections that are in place.
“If confirmed in this position, of course I would enforce all the laws of the land,” he said. “And I believe that all Americans, regardless of any of the things that you mentioned, should be protected by the law.”
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“What I have mentioned in the past is the fact that no one gets extra rights,” Carson said. “Extra rights mean that you get to redefine everything for everybody else. That to me doesn’t seem very democratic.”
Carson’s language referred to comments he made while running for the Republican nomination in 2015 that anti-discrimination efforts for transgender people amount to giving them “extra rights.” During a 2014 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said that “of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else, but they don’t get extra rights,” adding, “They don’t get to redefine marriage.”
Brown questioned Carson about a 2015 op-ed he penned for the Washington Times charging that HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, designed to combat racial segregation in housing, was an attempt “at social engineering.” Carson claimed his views on the matter had been “distorted.”
LGBTQ couples face discrimination in housing, according to a 2013 report issued by HUD. The department’s report noted that research into housing discrimination showed same-sex couples, “particularly gay male couples, will be less likely than heterosexual couples to receive responses from housing providers, invitations to contact providers, and invitations to inspect the advertised rental unit.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked Carson if he could assure her “that not a single taxpayer dollar that you give out will financially benefit the president-elect or his family.”
“I can assure you that the things that I do are driven by a sense of morals and values, and therefore I will absolutely not play favorites for anyone,” Carson said.
Warren pressed Carson to answer if he would ensure that “not one dollar” of grants or loans would go to the Trumps.
“It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American,” Carson said. He explained that if there was a “good program,” he would not turn it down because of who was behind it.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) questioned Carson about a recent conversation in which he said he didn’t want people “vegetating in public housing.” Carson responded that improving the economy would “make the right kind of atmosphere” to lift people out of poverty so they no longer needed public assistance programs.
Carson in 2015 suggested fake clinics known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” which lie to patients to persuade them not to have an abortion, are a solution in fighting poverty.
Carson was nominated to run HUD in December, despite having pulled his name from the running for a position in the Trump administration, citing his lack of government experience. After backtracking and deciding he would be open to a position, he appeared on Fox News and explained that his experience living in an urban environment qualified him for a spot leading the country’s housing policy.
“I know that I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there, have dealt with a lot of patients from that area, and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities,” Carson told Fox News host Neil Cavuto in November.
Fair and affordable housing advocates swiftly sounded the alarms on Carson’s nomination.
“While the impact of a Carson-run department are difficult to predict, given his lack of experience in housing, planning, or government, Mr. Carson’s on-record statements have made clear his support for rolling back significant housing protections and policies,” Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, said in a statement. She pointed to Carson’s opposition to the Fair Housing Act, and added that, “We cannot and will not support such action.”
Jumaane Williams, a New York City councilmember and chair of the city’s Housing and Buildings Committee, said in December that Carson’s nomination for a position with HUD is “ill-advised, irresponsible and hovers on absurdity” during an interview with Democracy Now.
“Housing, it’s not a plaything. It’s not something that you can just play around with,” Williams said. “It is, I believe, the rubric of family. It is the glue for a healthy community. And to have someone that really wants to dismantle any government involvement in making sure that every community has access to that is very scary. We should be worried.”
Trump faced a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice in 1973 for alleged racially discriminatory housing policies. That case was eventually settled.