Students Don’t Want Ben Carson as Commencement Speaker After Gay Marriage Remarks

Just a few months into his new role as the darling of the conservative right, famed neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson has angered supporters of gay marriage with comments on Fox News that appear to compare homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality. Though Carson yesterday tried to apologize for his remarks, students at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are circulating a petition to have him removed as a commencement speaker.

“My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition,” said Carson, who is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, on Sean Hannity’s show on Tuesday.

After his statement, many in the university community were offended, and students began a petition drive to have him removed from the commencement lineup.

“At the time of his nomination, Dr. Carson was known to most of us as a world-class neurosurgeon and passionate advocate for education. Many of us had read his books and looked up to him as a role model in our careers,” said the petition by the Health and Human Rights Student Group connected to its Facebook page. “Since then, however, several public events have cast serious doubt on the appropriateness of having Dr. Carson speak at our graduation.”

“They make him look nasty, petty, and ill-informed. It doesn’t tell us anything about his amazing abilities as a surgeon,” Todd Shepard, professor and co-director of the university’s program for the study of women, gender, and sexuality, said in a statement to Media Matters. “It does remind us, however, that those abilities do not mean we should listen to what he says in any other domain.”

Carson apologized yesterday for his choice of words — but not the sentiment behind them.

“I think in terms of what was said on Sean Hannity’s show, that was taken completely out of context and completely misunderstood in terms of what I was trying to say,” Carson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “As a Christian, I have a duty to love all people and that includes people who have other sexual orientations, and I certainly do, and never had any intention of offending anyone … If anyone was offended, I apologize to you.”

But he repeated his opposition to same-sex marriage. He said the term “marriage” should not be extended to same-sex couples, though he said the couples should be treated “kindly” and have whatever legal agreements they desire in order to transfer property and have visitation rights, among other rights.

“Marriage is a very sacred thing and we need to maintain it as a sacred thing. When I say we don’t want to change it or degrade it by calling everything marriage, that’s not aimed at any particular group,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, the Bible and God have set very specific standards. It’s very clear what’s being said. God doesn’t change, man changes. Our duty is to allow for that change and to still love them and in terms of what happens with them, that’s a decision that’s up to God, that’s not our decision.”

Carson said he would have no problem withdrawing from the commencement program.

It’s “their day and the last thing I would want to do is rain on their parade,” he said of the graduation ceremony.

Carson told the Baltimore Sun that people “have completely taken the wrong meaning out of what I was saying.” 

“Now perhaps the examples were not the best choice of words, and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone,” he said. “But the point that I was making was that no group of individuals, whoever they are, whatever their belief systems, gets to change traditional definitions.”

Carson vaulted to the front of the conservative star chamber after delivering a speech in front of President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast last month that conservatives celebrated as a right-wing smackdown. There was talk that Carson, with a sterling resume and string of bestselling books, may be the savior to rescue the party by appealing to minorities and capturing the presidency.

The conservative The Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial lauding Carson with the headline, “Ben Carson for President.”

In his speech, Carson blasted Obama’s healthcare reform law — which he has criticized in the past — and the devoutly religious neurosurgeon called on the nation to institute a flat tax, based on the Christian principle of tithing.

“Moral decay, fiscal irresponsibility, they destroyed themselves. And if you don’t think that can happen to America, you get out your books and you start reading,” Carson said as Obama listened, sitting no more than five feet away.


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