Metro Weekly

Virginia congresswoman reiterates call for Ben Carson’s resignation after transphobic remarks

Jennifer Wexton denounces HUD Secretary's anti-trans comments, and accuses him of lying to Congress under oath

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton – Photo: U.S. Congress.

A Northern Virginia congresswoman is reiterating her call for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson to resign following anti-transgender remarks he allegedly made during an agency meeting.

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg) responded to stories that Carson had called transgender women “big, hairy men” and implied that he disagreed with growing acceptance of transgender people by lamenting that “society no longer seemed to know the difference between men and women.”

Instead of apologizing, Carson doubled-down on his remarks, lamenting to Fox News host Tucker Carlson in an interview that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs and that he believes women’s shelters should be able to turn away transgender women without government interference.

“Secretary Carson’s remarks are revolting,” Wexton said in a statement. “These comments only affirm that his recent efforts to erase the Equal Access Rule are rooted in ignorance, not sound policy. By allowing shelters to discriminate against transgender Americans, the Secretary is putting lives in danger.

“When he testified before the Financial Services Committee in May, Secretary Ben Carson lied to me and the American people about his plans to allow discrimination against transgender Americans seeking access to life-saving shelter,” she added. “I called on him to resign then, and I reiterate my call for him to resign now.”

Wexton previously called on Carson to resign because she believes he lied under oath while she was questioning him during a House Financial Services committee meeting about whether HUD was going to be amending or rescinding an Obama-era Equal Access rule that allowed transgender people to access emergency shelters consistent with their gender identity.

According to Wexton’s office, Carson assured the congresswoman that he did not anticipate any change to the Equal Access Rule.

One day later, the agency announced plans to weaken the rule by allowing shelters to turn away transgender people or force them to be housed in quarters based on their assigned sex at birth, using religious beliefs as justification.

At the time, Wexton took to Twitter and accused Carson of either lying to Congress or being ignorant of what those under his command at HUD were doing, saying: “Either way, it’s unacceptable.”

Following the publication of the proposed changes, Wexton introduced a bill to block HUD from weakening the Equal Access Rule and guarantee protections for the transgender individuals seeking emergency shelter.

Last week, just before Carson’s most recent comments came to light, Wexton and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) led a coalition of 61 House members who sent a letter to the HUD Secretary denouncing anti-LGBTQ changes made to the 2019 Notice of Funding Availability, which describes the grants available to housing providers to support HUD initiatives.

The 2019 NOFA removes key incentives that promote the fair treatment of LGBTQ individuals, and nearly all mentions of the Housing First Program, which emphasizes providing permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible without preconditions or barriers to entry. It also removes incentives for providers who partners with LGBTQ-serving organizations, and deletes all mentions of the Equal Access Rule.

Wexton denounced the proposed changes, saying they pose a “real — even deadly — threat to the LGBTQ community.” 

“These continued attacks on LGBTQ people are cruel and unacceptable, and do not reflect sound policy,” she said in a statement. 

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in three transgender individuals have experienced homelessness. Yet 70% of transgender people who sought shelter reported being turned away, physically or sexually assaulted, or faced some other form of mistreatment because of their gender identity.

Read more:

Pro-Matt Bevin group runs scare ad on transgender athletes in Kentucky governor’s race

Trump touts initiative to decriminalize homosexuality abroad in UN speech

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey rejects protecting gay people from discrimination

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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