Ben Carson, a conservative commentator and former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University, announced his candidacy in his native Detroit before a packed audience at Detroit Music Hall.
“I’m Ben Carson, and I’m a candidate for the president of the United States,” Carson said.
Carson, who has never before sought political office, talked about his troubled youth and how his mother held multiple jobs as a domestic to keep from being on welfare.
“A lot of people are down on our nation, and they want to point out all the bad things that have happened here,” Carson said. “But have you ever noticed that there’s a lot of people trying to get in here and not a lot of people trying to escape?”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of National Log Cabin Republicans, said his organization has put in a request to meet with Carson that still stands with the campaign.
“Dr. Carson is a conservative folk hero,” Angelo said. “It remains to be seen how that will translate into a campaign. His presidential announcement avoided social issues, which could be an indication as to how he’s calibrating his campaign. It’s worth noting that Log Cabin Republicans has sent a request to meet with Dr. Carson to his team in March. That offer remains on the table.”
Leading up to his candidacy for president, Carson has made numerous anti-gay statements that have landed him in hot water with LGBT advocates.
During a March interview on CNN, Carson said prison proves being gay is a choice because “a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay.” After outcry, Carson issued an apology to “all that were offended” and said his “choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues.”
It wasn’t the first time Carson issued an apology for making anti-gay remarks. In 2013, Carson during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity said gays, pedophiles and those who engage in bestiality cannot “change the definition” of marriage.
“My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Carson said. “It’s a well-established fundamental pillar of society. And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”
At that time, Carson was set to deliver a commencement speech at Johns Hopkins University, but decided to step down after student outcry over his remarks and apologized “if anybody was offended.”
In public speaking engagements, Carson has continually expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. During an appearance at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, Carson said gay people deserve equal rights, but “don’t get extra rights, they don’t get to redefine marriage.”
On the same day Carson announced his candidacy, another candidate, Carly Fiorina, also confirmed she’s seeking the Republican nomination to become president via a video announcement on her newly launched campaign website.
The former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard is seen in the video initially watching Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcement before turning to the camera to announce her own candidacy.
“Our founders never intended for us to have a professional political class,” Fiorina says. “They believed that citizens and leaders needed to step forward. We knew the only way to reimagine our government is to reimagine who is leading it.”
Florina doesn’t have a significant record on LGBT issues because her experience lies in business, not political ambitions other than her failed challenge in 2012 against Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for her seat in the U.S. Senate.
But in an interview last month with USA Today, Fiorina defended the highly controversial Indiana religious freedom law signed by Gov. Mike Pence, but said she supports civil unions and “government should bestow benefits equally” to same-sex couples.
Angelo said Fiorina’s entry into the race is important because her candidacy will provide Republicans with a female counterbalance to Clinton.
“Fiorina’s entrance into the race is notable for two reasons: One, she is the first 2016 GOP presidential candidate on the record as supporting civil marriage equality; Two, she is the first female GOP presidential candidate to enter the race, which makes her a natural foil for Hillary Clinton and Democrats eager to play identity politics,” Angelo said.
Other Republicans who already declared their candidacies for 2016 are Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is expected to declare his candidacy on Tuesday.