GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson suggested creating separate public bathrooms for transgender people in an interview with Fusion's Jorge Ramos Thursday.
When Ramos asked Carson if transgender men and women should be able to use any public bathroom they choose, Carson responded, "How about we have a transgender bathroom?"
"It is not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable," Carson added. "It's one of the things that I don't particularly like about the movement."
Carson's comments come two days after Houston voters repealed the city's Equal Rights Ordinance. The measure barred discrimination based on 15 different categories, including race, military status and disability. But the protections for sexual orientation and gender identity attracted the most attention.
Opponents of HERO specifically zeroed in on the issue of access to public accommodations -- which includes public restrooms -- to scare voters into thinking that passage could increase the number of sexual assaults.
One particularly sinister TV ad showed a man following a young girl into a public restroom while a woman's voice said, "Any man at any time could enter a woman's bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day." (It's already illegal to sexually harass women, with or without HERO.)
In the Fusion interview, Carson repeated a common complaint about nondiscrimination legislation that includes LGBT protections, claiming that it would create special protections for a group of people.
"I think everybody has equal rights," he said, "but I'm not sure that anybody should have extra rights -- extra rights when it comes to redefining everything for everybody else."
Nondiscrimination legislation, however, simply puts LGBT individuals on equal footing with other groups of people. There are already federal protections for race, gender, religion and other categories. But sexual orientation and gender identity still aren't included.
The pro-LGBT equality Human Rights Campaign quickly condemned Carson's comments, calling them "out of touch" and saying they espoused "dangerously transphobic views" redolent of another time in U.S. history.
"Ben Carson can’t go a week without invoking reckless and irresponsible stereotypes about the LGBT community," HRC President Chad Griffen said. "His suggestion that transgender people be required to use segregated bathrooms echoes an ugly past our country should never revisit."
While cities that have passed LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances have not seen an increase in bathroom sexual assaults, transgender individuals continue to face harassment in public restrooms.
Seventy percent of transgender or gender non-conforming respondents in Washington, D.C. "reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restroom" in a 2013 study by the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank that studies LGBT issues.
Carson has previously made inflammatory statements about the LGBT community. He is opposed to same-sex marriage and once said prison was proof that sexual orientation is a choice: a statement for which he later apologized.
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