In his latest anti-LGBTQ cabinet nomination, President-elect Donald Trump confirmed yesterday that his pick for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is Ben Carson.
Trump reportedly first floated Carson as secretary of Health and Human Services—a post that Carson declined, according to a close advisor of his, because he said he didn’t have the experience to run a federal agency. But he appears to have changed his mind.
“I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need,” he said in a statement he posted to Facebook. “We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.”
What he does bring to the table is an array of homophobic and transphobic opinions, grounded in his evangelical Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, which, he made clear on his presidential campaign trail, he believes should have a place in directing federal government policies.
He could place a greater emphasis on religious organizations and charities providing housing assistance and aid for the homeless, limiting the role of the federal government in a way that could leave low-income and homeless LGBTQ people in particular at risk.
Regarding same-sex marriage, he’s said that he doesn’t think it’s a civil right and has compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophelia in an interview with Fox Nation in April 2013:
Well, my thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition. So it’s not something that’s against gays. It’s against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications.
Carson called transgender rights “absolutely ridiculous stuff” at a Republican National Convention event in July. From CNN:
For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now all of a sudden we don’t know anymore. Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?
Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, (then) you’re racist’…
Anytime the secular progressives want to get people on their side, they go back to the civil rights movement, and they say this is a civil rights issue and it’s not a civil rights issue. But we have to be willing to stand up, we have to be willing to call out people for this absolutely ridiculous stuff that they’re trying to put over on us, that they’re trying to put over on our children.
These attitudes, held by the man in charge of the nation’s housing and shelter agency, could have serious consequences for some of the most vulnerable Americans: homeless LGBTQ youth. A 2012 study from UCLA’s Williams Institute found that 40% of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ. In homeless shelters, 21% of young people identified at LGBTQ.
That’s despite some provisions in the Fair Housing Act that currently exist to prevent housing discrimination. Though the act doesn’t specifically include sexual orientation as a category of discrimination, it can be interpreted to protect LGBT people: “if a housing provider refuses to rent to an LGBT person because he believes the person acts in a manner that does not conform to his notion of how a person of a particular sex should act, the person may pursue the matter as a violation of the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition of sex,” according to the department.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are more specifically covered in HUD’s equal access rule, which applies to landlords and housing agencies that receive federal funding or loans through the federal government.
“Carson has long wanted to slash and dismantle programs that help the poor and homeless get back on their feet–programs he would be in charge of at HUD,” said a statement from the National Center for Transgender Equality following Carson’s nomination. “This is especially concerning for LGBT youth and adults who face discrimination in the housing market and high rates of poverty and homelessness.”
If what protections are currently in place through HUD are repealed by Carson, the effects could be dire for many young LGBTQ people, who are more likely to end up in need of public housing or space at shelters in the first place because they’re more likely to experience discrimination from their families and support structures.
These federal regulations are essential because, as the national Movement Advancement Project tells us, protections are inconsistent at the state-level: twenty-eight states have no laws to prevent housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.