HUD proposes gutting trans protections one day after Ben Carson promised it wouldn't

HUD secretary told Congress rules protecting trans people in shelters wouldn't change. One day later, they did

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published May 24, 2019 6:00AM (EDT)

Ben Carson (AP/Matt Rourke)
Ben Carson (AP/Matt Rourke)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a new rule that would roll back protections for transgender people, just a day after HUD Secretary Ben Carson testified to Congress that no such changes were coming.

Carson testified Tuesday that he was “not currently anticipating changing” the Equal Access Rule, a 2012 Obama-era regulation that banned federally-funded homeless shelters from turning away people based on gender identity or orientation.

On Wednesday, HUD proposed a rule that would do just that.

The proposed rule would allow shelters that segregate facilities like bathrooms and shared sleeping quarters by gender to consider gender when deciding whether to admit someone.

The rule says that shelters can use "privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs" as the basis for their decisions.

The move comes after HUD removed materials from its website intended to train shelter providers to prevent LGBTQ discrimination.

Carson defended the deletion, arguing that the Equal Access Rules that he now wants to change "adequately provide for fairness for all communities."

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., who grilled Carson on Tuesday, said on Wednesday that the secretary either lied to the committee or has no idea what his own agency is doing.

"One day after [Carson] told me he isn't anticipating any changes to protections for LGBTQ people in shelters, HUD announced a proposal to gut that very rule," Wexton said Wednesday on Twitter. "He either lied to Congress or has no idea what policies his agency is pursuing. Either way, it's unacceptable."

Wexton introduced a bill on Thursday that would block the agency from implementing the proposed rule.

Julián Castro, a 2020 Democratic candidate and former HUD secretary who worked on finalizing the Equal Access Rule, said that "rescinding this rule is a shameful decision that will result in trans shelter-seekers being forced on the streets."

Mara Keisling, who heads the National Center for Transgender Equality, called the proposal a "heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

"The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country," Keisling said in a statement. "Secretary Carson's actions are contrary to the mission of his Department and yet another example of the tragic cruelty of this administration."

Carson made clear exactly how he feels about transgender people during his failed 2016 presidential bid. He called transgender people “the height of absurdity” during a campaign event in Florida and later said in an interview that transgender people don’t deserve “extra rights,” because “nobody gets to redefine everything for everybody else and then make them comply to it.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly rolled back transgender protections, banning trans recruits from the military and more recently announcing a rule that would allow health care workers to refuse to treat trans people based on moral and religious reasons.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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