Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson is getting some blowback from right-wing activists regarding his service on the boards of two LGBT-supportive companies.
“I think he has to explain this,” Tony Perkins, president of the antigay Family Research Council, told Reuters regarding Carson’s time on the boards of Kellogg and Costco. “As he is pursuing the presidency, what he has to make clear is that the board positions should not be reflective of his public policy.”
Both companies have high ratings from the Human Rights Campaign for their LGBT-related policies — Costco a 90 and Kellogg a perfect 100, which it has had for the past five years. Kellogg offers the one thing that kept Costco from a perfect score — insurance coverage of medically necessary procedures for transgender employees. Companies are also rated on their antidiscrimination policies, employee support groups, diversity training, and other factors.
Carson joined Kellogg’s board of directors in 1997 and Costco’s in 1999, and he resigned from both when he officially launched his presidential campaign this year, as presidential candidates usually sever any corporate ties.
His work with Costco came up in last Wednesday’s Republican debate, where he contended, “There is no reason you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community” even while believing, as he does, that marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples.
Those who served with Carson on the boards say they don’t recall him opposing any of the supportive policies. “Ben Carson never came into the boardroom with any kind of social policy commentary,” Costco board chair Jeffrey Brotman told Reuters. Donald Knauss, a director at Kellogg, said Carson seemed fine with the company’s pro-LGBT stances.
It may be hard for Carson to convince social conservatives that he “can divorce boardroom politics from presidential politics,” David King, a senior lecturer of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, told the news agency.
Perkins said he worried that corporate antidiscrimination policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity could be used to discriminate against employees opposed to homosexuality. And Lynn Proudfoot, a Republican activist and undecided voter in Iowa, told Reuters he “would look disfavorably” on Carson’s support for such policies.
But Carson told the news service, “As far as conservatives are concerned, I’ve made my position clear to them as well. I believe in traditional marriage. But I don’t have anything against the gay community.” Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republicans president Gregory T. Angelo said he doesn’t consider Carson a “fire-breathing homophobe.” However, the candidate’s many antigay stances and statements tell a different story; read all about them here.