LGBT advocates, military leaders and President Obama have said the U.S. military is better off without “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but Ben Carson doesn’t think so, according to a recent report by NBC News.
The Republican presidential candidate reportedly said he prefers a U.S. military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and decried the movement toward openly transgender service at a Waterloo, Iowa, town hall hosted by Concerned Veterans for America.
“I mean, why do you have to go around flouting your sexuality?” Carson reportedly said. “It’s not necessary, you don’t need to talk about that, we need to talk about how we eliminate the enemy.”
After Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, President Obama and military leaders lifted the policy the next year, enabling openly gay people to serve in the armed forces.
On transgender service, Carson is quoted as saying “the last thing we need to be doing is saying what would it be like if we introduced several transgender people into this platoon.”
“You know, give me a break,” Carson reportedly said. “Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else.”
In July, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the Pentagon would conduct a review of allowing transgender people in the U.S. military. Although an estimated 15,000 transgender people are serving in the armed forces, they’re currently barred from open service under medical regulation. The Pentagon is expected to implement openly transgender service in May.
Carson made the remarks the same week the Pentagon announced it would open up combat roles to women. The candidate reportedly gave tepid support for the change, saying he doesn’t appreciate “using our military as a laboratory for social experimentation.”
“All the success I’ve had in life is because of women, so I am never going to say ‘no’ to women. I’m not,” Carson reportedly said. However, he’s quoted as saying he would be “very frightened” if standards were lowered.
“If you can’t lift, you know, a 175 pound person on your shoulder and hoist them out of there, then If I’m out there, I don’t want you as my backup,” Carson reportedly said.
Carson reportedly made the remarks shortly after Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz decried “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in a conference call with right-wing supporters, saying the change resulted in lower morale in the U.S. military.
Matt Thorn, interim executive director for the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN, said he was “dismayed” Carson would indicate he would want to return to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and called on Carson to apologize.
“The law was archaic and discriminatory; and should have never been implemented in the first place,” Thorn said. “His impetuous statement is barbaric, cruel, and supported by unfounded misconceptions.”
The Washington Blade has a placed a call in with the Carson campaign to seek clarification on whether his remarks mean the candidate would seek to restore “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected president.