Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson defended his agency's delay in instituting regulations to protect transgender individuals in homeless shelters because "there are some women who said they were not comfortable with being in a shelter" with "somebody who had a very different anatomy."
Carson was questioned at a House subcommittee hearing by Illinois Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley about the removal of HUD training materials to prevent LGBT discrimination in homeless shelters.
"Remember it is complex," Carson said. "We obviously believe in equal rights for everybody, including the LGBT community. But we also believe in equal rights for the women in the shelters, and shelters where there are men, and their equal rights. So, we want to look at things that really provide for everybody and doesn't impede the rights of one for the sake of the other."
Pressed by Quigley as to how protecting transgender individuals would infringe on the rights of others, Carson said, "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."
Carson said the agency's general counsel, who was confirmed in December, would be involved in negotiating the protections. He added that he would be willing to sit down with Quigley and members of the LGBT community to discuss them.
LBGT advocacy group GLAAD slammed Carson's comments, calling them "derogatory myths" that show the secretary is "unfit to be the head of" the agency.
"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." GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis 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 removal of resources to protect the LGBT community has become the center of a lawsuit filed in early March against the Trump administration by the liberal advocacy organization People for the American Way. The suit calls for "the release of documents concerning reported changes in federal policy toward LGBTQ people," according to a statement.
In July 2017, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and 28 other Democratic senators sent a letter to Carson asking that he return the resources to HUD's website.
"The guidance resources that were withdrawn or removed are critical to ensuring nondiscrimination rules are fully and faithfully implemented," they wrote.