LGBTQ rights groups slammed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson on Wednesday for resorting to "fearmongering" tactics to defend the removal of anti-discrimination materials regarding transgender people from his agency's website.
In a House subcommittee hearing this week, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) asked Carson why information meant to prevent mistreatment of transgender Americans in homeless shelters was removed from HUD's website last summer.
"Over nine months later, these valuable resources are still missing from the website," said Quigley.
Carson suggested that HUD, under President Donald Trump, has reconsidered welcoming transgender people into the nation's homeless shelters because their presence can make other residents "uncomfortable."
"We obviously believe in equal rights for everybody, including the LGBT community," said Carson. "But we also believe in equal rights for the women in the shelters, and shelters where there are men, and their equal rights...There are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy."
In a tweet about the incident, GLAAD denounced the excuse as anti-transgender fearmongering.
U.S. HUD Sec. Ben Carson says policies that protected #transgender people in homeless shelters were rescinded because "some women aren't comfortable" being around #trans women https://t.co/Wcff4E6IMq #LGBT pic.twitter.com/NrARFm9oGO— LGBT+ News (@mondokoosh) March 20, 2018
"It is because of derogatory myths like this, which have been debunked time and time again, that the transgender community faces disproportionate levels of discrimination and homelessness," Sarah Kate Ellis, the group's president, said in a statement. "Today's blatant and factually inaccurate anti-transgender rhetoric is the latest in a long line of uninformed and biased statements about LGBTQ people that make Dr. Carson unfit to be the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development."
The argument put forth by Carson mirrored concerns he expressed about allowing transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity in 2015, when he said in an interview with Fusion, "It's not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable."
A report by GLAAD last year refuted right-wing claims that allowing transgender people to use public facilities puts anyone else in danger:
Nondiscrimination protections for transgender people do not change long-standing laws that make it illegal for anyone to enter a public restroom for the purpose of harassing or harming another person, or invading their privacy.
The Human Rights Campaign called Carson's claims "debunked and mean-spirited."
"The level of ignorance he has consistently shown as the nation's top housing official is deeply alarming, and has clear consequences for LGBTQ people who experience disproportionate rates of homelessness," said HRC government affairs director David Stacy. "When homeless shelters become unwelcome spaces for LGBTQ people, the consequences are devastating."
A 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that nearly one-third of transgender Americans have experienced homelessness at some point, while 70 percent have been mistreated in the shelter system—experiencing sexual harassment and assault as well as being turned away because of their sexual identity.
Carson's refusal to protect transgender homeless people from discrimination is just the latest sign that he is abandoning HUD's stated mission under previous administrations. Earlier this month, the ACLU and other civil rights groups condemned the Secretary for removing the words "inclusive communities...free from discrimination" from the agency's mission statement.