Democrats introduce resolution denouncing Ben Carson's 'transphobic history'

The move comes weeks after the HUD secretary reportedly disparaged transgender women in comments at the department's office in San Francisco.
Housing And Urban Development Department Secretary Ben Carson Testifies To Senate Committee On Department's Budget
Housing Secretary Ben Carson.Alex Wong / Getty Images file
By Tim Fitzsimons

Two House Democrats, Reps. Mike Quigley of Illinois and Katie Hill of California, introduced a resolution on Tuesday condemning the "transphobic history" of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.

The move comes two weeks after Carson reportedly disparaged transgender women in comments at HUD's office in San Francisco. Carson, according to The Washington Post, complained to staff members that society could no longer differentiate between men and women and called transgender women who may seek services from homeless or crisis shelters “big hairy men.” HUD oversees, among other things, federally funded shelters for the country's homeless, which includes a disproportionate number of transgender people.

Carson said his remarks were mischaracterized.

"I made reference to the fact that I had heard from many women’s groups about the difficulty they were having with women’s shelters because sometimes men would claim to be women, and that HUD’s policy required the shelter to accept — without question — the word of whoever came in," Carson wrote, in part, in response to the Post article.

"This made many of the women feel unsafe, and one of the groups described a situation to me in which ‘big hairy men’ would come in and have to be accepted into the women’s shelter even though it made the women in the facility very uncomfortable."

In a statement to NBC News, Quigley called Carson’s comments “completely unacceptable for the federal official responsible for ensuring minority populations have access to safe, secure housing.”

“At a minimum, he owes an apology to the staff he subjected to his bigoted remarks, to trans individuals around the country, and to the entire LGBT community," Quigley wrote. "It is clearer than ever that Secretary Carson’s bigoted views make him unfit to lead HUD and the record must reflect that this Congress does not condone such intolerance.”

Hill called Carson's comments "hurtful" and "bigoted" and said they "do not represent the feelings of this Congress."

“I spent my entire career working in homelessness services where I saw over and over how disproportionately transgender individuals, particularly trans women, experience housing insecurity,” Hill, one of several LGBTQ representatives in Congress elected in 2018’s “Rainbow Wave,” said in a statement.

The resolution introduced by Quigley and Hill in the House goes beyond Carson's remarks in San Francisco and denounces comments he made while running for president in 2016, and official changes he has made as HUD secretary.

In 2015, Carson decried integrating transgender people into the military, saying, “Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else.” And under Carson's leadership, the Department of Housing and Urban Development rescinded a 2016 Obama-era rule that opened federally funded women’s crisis shelters to transgender women.

Democratic presidential contender and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who oversaw the regulatory change that allowed transgender women to access rape and crisis shelters, called Carson's decision to rescind the 2016 rule "a shameful decision that will result in trans shelter-seekers being forced on the streets.”

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