Dr. Ben Carson during the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center at National Harbor, Md., on Saturday, March 16, 2013. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Dr. Ben Carson is withdrawing as this year’s commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins University.

The announcement came Wednesday in response to recent student petitions to have Carson replaced following his controversial statements about gay marriage.

According to the Washington Post, in an e-mail to Paul Rothman, dean of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Carson wrote:

Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interests of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year.  My presence is likely to distract from the true celebratory nature of the day. Commencement is about the students and their successes, and it is not about me.

Carson was subject to widespread criticism from students and  faculty at Johns Hopkins for his comparison of same-sex marriage to pedophilia and bestiality last month.

Carson told FOX News host Sean Hannity, “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.”

Earlier this year Carson announced that he will be retiring as the head of Johns Hopkins Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery.

Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals