Dr. Ben Carson seems to be in the process of disappearing from that stage on which the GOP presidential wannabes gather every so often. But even if his campaign is running out of steam, some of the things he has said—specifically about LGBTQ people—represent fallacies that he points to as reasons to decry marriage equality and transgender rights. In a sense, he’s like the canary in the coal mine, except that he only thinks he’s dying.
The recent actions of Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky (who is placating Kim Davis by instituting a new marriage license devoid of the names of responsible authorities) and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (who issued an administrative order preventing gay couples from being granted marriage licenses) are supported by entirely too many people, and this support is based on the same fallacies Carson proclaims as though he knew what he was talking about. He doesn’t.
I find myself wondering whether the fallacies that Carson believes are what has informed his opinion about LGBT rights, or if it’s the other way around. But even if his opinions led the way to believing the fallacies, he’s far from alone in believing and repeating these falsehoods. Let’s explode some of them. Maybe some people with genuinely good intentions who are currently on the wrong side of these issues will engage their brains and see the light.
***Note that you'll see many links in this post. I felt it was necessary so no one would think I was making this stuff up.***
Fallacy #1: Marriage equality is a states’ rights matter.
Early in 2015 Carson demonstrated his woeful misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution when he said that it was unconstitutional for federal judges to be involved in the marriage debate, because the question was purely a states’ rights question. The first problem with his position is that whether the laws of the land should be applied equally to all citizens is not a states’ rights question. The second problem is that he’s evidently forgetting (if he even knew) that it was precisely this question behind the U.S. Supreme Court decision that bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional (Loving v. Virginia, 1967).
Fallacy #2: Allowing gay people to marry ruins the lives of good Christians.
This is how Carson put it: "The way it works now is they target you and they have all kinds of hate speech ridicule [sic], if there’s a way they can bring action against you they will do that, try to ruin your life.” And this: "Look at all the people who because of their religious convictions and their belief in what the Bible says have lost their livelihood and they’re put in jeopardy over the gay marriage issue...”
Carson is no doubt referring to the very, very few small business owners who have flouted their own states’ anti-discrimination laws and refused to do business with LGBT people. Not only is the number of affected individuals minuscule, but also the problem wasn’t marriage equality. The problem was that they broke the law. They would have been in just as much trouble if they had refused to do business with Dr. Carson because he’s African American.
Fallacy #3: Marriage equality will open the door for all kinds of changes.
According to Carson, “…to change the definition of marriage, the problem is once you do that for one group, why wouldn’t you have to do that for the next group?” But he’s confusing the “definition of marriage” with the laws about marriage. If he defines marriage as a legal partnership between one man and one woman, then yes, marriage equality will change that.
But the only laws that Obergefell v. Hodges changed were those put into place, mostly in this century, by states whose legislatures specifically banned same-sex couples from legal marriage. Marriage laws still require the parties to be consenting adults, not too closely related, not already married to someone else, who can pay the license fee, and (in some states) who have no dread diseases. Ridiculous questions about whether this opens the door to polygamy, incest, or marriage to one’s donkey, are exactly that: ridiculous questions.
Fallacy #4: Allowing same-sex couples to marry, or allowing a transwoman to use the women’s bathroom, is giving them extra rights.
On the marriage “extra” right, Carson says: "Everybody gets equal rights, but nobody gets extra rights, extra rights to change everything for everybody else to suit them.” Um… where’s the “extra” right? It’s marriage. And it’s not “gay marriage,” because LGBT individuals aren’t expecting a different kind of marriage. It’s just marriage. Nothing extra about it. Also, he’s thrown in another absurdity, namely that if gay couples are allowed to marry, it changes everything for everybody. Like… what? What does he think will change for him, or for anyone he knows? Or for anyone he doesn’t know, other than LGBT people?
On restroom use, he says: “…I’m not sure that anybody should have extra rights—extra rights when it comes to redefining everything for everybody else and imposing your view on everybody else.” Is it an "extra right" to be able to use a public restroom in peace and not be harassed by anyone? For example, the way a transwoman would be terrorized by men in a men's room? Oh, and he thinks there should be transgender bathrooms. Like, huh? If you’re going to do that, why not make all bathrooms unisex? But—wait—he had a problem with mixing the sexes in a bathroom… I wonder if he realizes he didn’t engage his brain before speaking on this one.
Fallacy #5: Christians are being too quiet and should protest more loudly against LGBT rights.
Carson has said that evangelical Christians should “stand up,” should “not remain silent.” He says “the secular-progressive movement…has been very successful…beating people down so that they are silent.” He says these liberals want Christians to “sit down and shut up so they [presumably, the liberals] can drive the boat.”
There’s no way to talk sensibly about this one. Obviously the man doesn’t know how to read and never listens to any news broadcasts or to any of the other presidential wannabes on stage with him. Perhaps he’s also unaware that the majority of Americans today are in favor of marriage equality, whereas in 1967 when Carson gained the right to marry a white woman, only 20% of Americans would have approved.
Fallacy #6: Censoring extreme liberal speech would not affect conservatives.
At least twice, including during an interview with Glenn Beck, Carson said he would “monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.” And when asked if he didn’t see that this kind of censorship could backfire and affect the expression of conservative views, he said, “I think we would have to put in very strict guidelines for the way that that was done.” He wasn’t worried, because it would apply only to “extreme political biases.”
It would seem, therefore, that he hasn’t heard any extreme political bias coming from his side of the fence. Well, others have, and—sorry Dr. Carson—but yes; you, yourself, and many others, would be just as affected as your opponents by this type of censorship. When it rains, the heavens don’t create little holes of sunshine for you and your friends.
Fallacy #7: Being gay is a choice.
In my opinion, this one fallacy underlies almost all of the others. If Carson understood that he did not choose to be straight and could not choose to be gay, he would (if he is as smart as he wants us to think he is) be forced to reassess his entire position on LGBT rights.
Here’s his take on choice: “[Many] people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.” Perhaps he doesn’t watch television or go to films and so has never seen the way sex in prison takes place between inmates. Or perhaps he thinks he knows what’s in the minds and hearts of people who are released from prison. Or perhaps he’s just insane.
Ben Carson believes so many weird things that I have limited myself here to LGBT issues because of my personal mission.
Please note that I am not wishing ill for Ben Carson. I am not wishing he would die. But if that canary isn’t really dead, I do wish it would stop singing.