Ben Carson is an extremely interesting human being. He’s a celebrated neurosurgeon, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a GOP presidential hopeful. He was even the first man to successfully operate on twins conjoined at the head! Really, that’s all pretty impressive stuff. But as is often the case in politics, on both sides of the aisle, it seems that no amount of superior intellect can save the man from a few radical and nonsensical stances on major issues. With Ben Carson, the issue that keeps exposing some level of inner idiocy is gay marriage, and in a broader sense, LGBT rights. And recently, he may have made his dumbest comments yet on the issues.
“A lot of people… go into prison straight,” he explained, “and when they come out, they’re gay. So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, posted and discussed at Rolling Stone, Carson was asked about his stance on gay marriage as an issue of equality. When he asserted that equal rights for homosexuals differ from equal rights for racial minorities because sexuality is a choice, Cuomo pressed him further. Carson clarified that he absolutely believes sexuality to be a choice and explained that his justification for this belief has to do with prison. “A lot of people… go into prison straight,” he explained, “and when they come out, they’re gay. So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
Yep, you read that right. Now here’s everything that’s wrong with Carson’s statement.
To begin with, it’s constitutionally inept. When Cuomo suggests, in the CNN interview, that the illegality of gay marriage is a violation of equal rights prohibited by the Constitution and compares it to similar violations that have occurred with regard to race, Carson explains that race cannot be chosen. The implication here is that a person’s choices can render that person unworthy of Constitutional protection. Would Carson say the same in an issue of religious persecution, simply because religion can be chosen? It’s a slightly different issue, but even a murderer has constitutional rights to a fair trial, to fair representation, despite choosing to kill. Even if one accepts Carson’s absurd reasoning for sexuality being a choice, the logic that choice should impact the distribution of equal rights is ludicrous.
“…Carson’s comments belittled, and even ignored, the very serious issue of sexual assault in prison…”
But even more problematically, Carson’s comments belittled, and even ignored, the very serious issue of sexual assault in prison. It may not be exactly what he meant but by saying, “Did something happen to them in there?” in relation to inmates who experience sexual transformations in prison, Carson is either intentionally or unintentionally referring to prison rape and assault, or at the very least to the sexual atmosphere of domination and submission that exists in some prisons. Furthermore, he’s doing so as if the sexual practices included in this prison culture are entirely voluntary. The truth is, they are often involuntary, and, without proper protection or precaution, unhealthy as well. In everyday society, significant portions of America have gotten over the ridiculous notion that LGBT sex is somehow more dangerous or disease-ridden than sex between two straight individuals. A chronicle of the attitudes toward and
perceptions of LGBT sexual relations in the U.S. actually shows strong progress in this regard, despite occasional backlash from fearful or overly conservative members of society. Sadly, it’s this latter group to which Carson now adds his name by demonstrating a disastrously incompetent understanding of sex in prison. The suggestion that prison sex changes a person’s sexuality, when the notion of rape, psychological damage, or physical health risk is completely ignored, is astounding.
Finally, there’s the little fact that Carson is unqualified to base potentially impactful political outlooks on cultural observations. This man is a neurosurgeon and evidently finds so little in the way of scientific evidence to support his views of sexuality that he has resorted to a cheeky observation about homosexual encounters in prisons to explain himself. If his views were scientific, he would be qualified to discuss them; if they were purely legal in nature, his interpretation would be valuable given that he’s running for higher office. But Carson is speaking merely about a social observation, and for that he has no elevated perspective or recognized expertise. That doesn’t mean he can’t discuss it as he pleases, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that his comments in this area are purely one man’s opinion.
Fortunately, Carson’s opinion may well end up being a quiet one in the GOP nominee race. He is far from frontrunner status at this point, and recently the Boston Globe even published an editorial stating that some of the candidates likely to share in a bigger spotlight are actually “softening their stances” on gay marriage. Jeb Bush is often mentioned these days as one candidate from the GOP with a fairly forward-thinking outlook on the issue. Ultimately, the “softening” of the GOP view seems to be more defeatist than actually evolved, but so long as insane outlooks like the one Ben Carson shared on CNN disappear from the national spotlight, we’ll count it as a positive.
"This article was written by John Beverly. He is a freelance writer currently residing in New York City. His views do not necessarily reflect that of Seenqueen.com"