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GOP Ariz. sheriff comes out after allegedly threatening to deport ex

Babeu denies allegations in explosive news report

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Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (photo by Gage Skidmore via wikimedia commons)

A conservative congressional candidate in Arizona has come out as gay and stepped down from a position on the Romney campaign amid allegations he threatened to deport an ex-boyfriend who’s a Mexican immigrant.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who’s running for the Republican nomination to represent Arizona’s fourth congressional district in the U.S. House, has come under scrutiny after the Phoenix New Times first reported the allegations against him last week.

Jose, a 34-year-old from central Mexico whose last name was not disclosed in the article, told the paper Babeu threatened him with deportation if he were to reveal their years-long relationship.

The Mexican native said he met Babeu in October 2006 on Gay.com, a dating website for gay men. The two allegedly began dating, and Jose helped Babeu with his campaigns by creating and maintaining Babeu’s campaign websites, Facebook page and Twitter account. But after the relationship ended, Jose allegedly faced threats of deportation.

On Saturday, Babeu, first elected as sheriff in 2008 and considered a rising star in the Republican Party, held a news conference and denied all the allegations save one.

“Yesterday, a tabloid article made a number of false allegations about me,” Babeu said. “Only one was true: I’m gay.”

Babeu continued that he should be judged on his service to his country as he continues to pursue election to Congress.

“I want to be judged on my service: 20 years in the military, two deployments — including one in Iraq, a police officer who has responded to thousands of calls for help, and a sheriff who has cut response times while reducing my own budget,” Babeu said. “I hope you will stand with me as we talk about the issues that matter: securing our border and ending the record debt and deficit spending that is stalling our economy and bankrupting the country we all love.”

As part of its report, the Phoenix New Times published text messages Babeu allegedly sent Jose after the relationship ended, including messages saying, “You can never have business after this and you will harm me and many others in the process . . . including yourself & your family” and “You have crossed the line. Better get an attorney. You brother will also be contacted.”

Additionally, the paper published semi-nude photos of Babeu that he allegedly sent to Jose and a screenshot of what apparently is his profile for his adam4adam account.

Babeu later reportedly told the Arizona Republic he knows Jose as a campaign volunteer who improperly accessed his campaign website without permission. Babeu’s lawyer, Chris DeRose, provided the paper with a copy of a cease-and-desist order that he said was sent to the former campaign volunteer on Sept. 6 ordering him to stop accessing the site.

According to Talking Points Memo, Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said Babeu has stepped down from his position as co-chair of the campaign in Arizona.

“Sheriff Babeu has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him,” she was quoted as saying. “We support his decision.”

The congressional race in which Babeu is running is contested and other Republicans are seeking the nomination. It remains to be seen whether Babeu will be able to win in the district, which is currently represented by Democrat Ed Pastor, after facing these allegations and coming out.

Even though he was allegedly in a relationship with an immigrant, Babeu has a taken a hard line on the issue over the course of his political career. Upon announcing his candidacy for Congress in October, Babeu decried what he said was the lack of action from the Obama administration to confront illegal immigration.

“Rather than secure our border and enforce the law, what did we see from our federal government?” Babeu writes. “Signs in my county warning Americans to stay away, because the cartels were in control; a lawsuit against the people of Arizona; a declaration that the border is more secure than ever. Meanwhile, 400,000 people unlawfully enter our state every year, tens of thousands with criminal records, some from nations that sponsor terrorism.”

Babeu and the allegations against him have received national attention since the Phoenix New Times reported them last week.

According to Politico, the developments will likely raise three concerns with Arizona Republican primary voters: his sexual orientation, the deportation allegation and the revelation Babeu was in a relationship with an undocumented immigrant while positioning himself as a hardline border protection sheriff.

“If Babeu fails to make it to the primary — or through it — some might point to the Republican Party’s reputation of being hostile to gays as the reason,” Politico reports.

In appearance on ABC News’ “This Week,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Babeu his “friend” and said he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“Well of course Sheriff Babeu is a friend of mine,” McCain said. “I do not know the details except what has been published in the media and I am sure there will be a through and complete investigation if there is any allegations of wrongdoing. All I can say is that he also deserves the benefit, as every citizen does, of innocence until proven guilty.”

Babeu has connection to McCain because the sheriff helped with the senator’s re-election efforts. In May 2010, when he was featured in a McCain TV ad, where the two walk along a steel fence delineating the U.S.-Mexican border. Babeu affirms support for McCain’s immigration plan.

Babeu’s inclusion in the ad was meant to bolster the senator’s credibility on border security during a contested GOP primary race against former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Silas

    February 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Another social conservative comes out of the closet.

    I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you.

  2. jayson

    February 20, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I think it shows the diversity within the movement. Something many say does not exist.

  3. laurelboy2

    February 20, 2012 at 11:59 am

    He’s so hot. He can handcuff me anytime he wants.

    He and I have at least 2 things in common: we’re both social and political conservatives, and we’re both into Latinos.

  4. scotty501

    February 21, 2012 at 12:05 am

    What a low thing for his ex to do. I hate that petty b-tchy stuff. That the difference between being a gay man and -insert slang here-

  5. designpro2

    February 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    When are we going to get to the point in America that you are judged by who you are and not what your sexual preference is?? Good grief. Looks like he’s been a good law officer so far, why should anyone care what he does in the bedroom? Oh, by the way, I’m conservative, and heterosexual, proving that not all of us are prejudiced.

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National

Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature

Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor

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First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Obergefell has announced he'd seek a seat in the Ohio state legislature.

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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National

FDA-funded blood donation study recruiting gay, bi men

D.C.’s Whitman-Walker, L.A. LGBT Center working on study to ease restrictions

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gay blood ban, gay news, Washington Blade
A new study could make it easier for gay and bi men to donate blood.

D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Institute and the Los Angeles LGBT Center are among LGBTQ supportive organizations in eight U.S. cities working with the nation’s three largest blood donation centers on a study to find a way to significantly ease blood donation eligibility for men who have sex with men or MSM.

The study, which is funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calls for recruiting a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men in eight U.S. cities selected for the study to test the reliability of a detailed donor history questionnaire aimed at assessing the individual risk of a gay or bisexual man transmitting HIV if they donate blood.

A statement released by the study organizers says the questionnaire, which could be given to a gay or bisexual person showing up at a blood donation site, could be a replacement for the FDA’s current policy of banning men who have had sex with another man within the previous three months from donating blood.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the FDA put in place a permanent ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men. In 2015, with advanced HIV testing and screening techniques readily available, the FDA lifted its permanent ban on MSM blood donations and replaced it with a 12-month restriction for sexual activity between MSM.

The FDA further reduced the time of sexual abstinence for MSM to three months in 2020.

LGBTQ rights organizations and others advocating for a change in the current FDA restriction point out that at a time when the nation is facing a severe shortage of blood donations due to the COVID pandemic, the three-month donation deferral requirement for MSM is preventing a large number of blood donations from men whose risk of HIV infection is low to nonexistent.

Under the FDA-funded and initiated study, the American Red Cross, Vitalant, and OneBlood — the nation’s three largest blood donation centers — have been conducting the questionnaire testing since the study was launched in March 2021.

“To gather the necessary data, the blood centers will partner with LGBTQ+ Centers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Orlando, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Miami, Memphis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta,” the study organizers say in a statement on a website launched to help recruit volunteers for the study.

“The study will enroll a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men (250 – 300 from each area) who meet the study eligibility criteria,” the statement says.

Among the criteria for being eligible, the statement says, is the person must be between 18 and 39 years old, have expressed an interest in donating blood, must have had sex with at least one other man in the three months before joining the study, and must agree to an HIV test. A negative test result is also required for acceptance into the study.

The study is officially named ADVANCE, which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility.

“The ADVANCE study is a first step in providing data that will help the FDA determine if a donor history questionnaire based on individual risk would be as effective as time-based deferral, in reducing the risk of HIV in the blood supply,” the study organizers statement says.

“If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions, it could mean men who have sex with men who present to donate would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred,” the statement continues. “The ADVANCE study is groundbreaking because it’s the first time a study is being conducted that could result in individual risk assessment for men who have sex with men to donate blood,” the statement says.

The Whitman-Walker Institute, which is among the community-based organizations involved in helping organize and conduct the study, is an arm of Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive D.C. health center.

Christopher Cannon, director of Research Operations for Whitman-Walker Institute, said that since the D.C.-based part of the study was launched early last year prior to the official announcement of the study on March 20, D.C. has surpassed the original city goal of recruiting 250 participants for the study.

“We are currently at 276 as of last Friday’s report,” Cannon told the Blade in a Jan. 13 interview. “And the current goal is now 300,” he said. “So, we’re hoping to push this over that goal line in the coming days and weeks.

Cannon said that like the community organizations involved in the study in other cities, Whitman-Walker Institute’s role has been focused on recruiting gay and bisexual men to participate in the study and to send them to the American Red Cross headquarters building at 430 17th St., N.W. near the White House. That site, which serves as a blood donation center, is also serving as the site where study participants are screened, interviewed, and presented with a detailed questionnaire.

“We promote the study within Whitman-Walker,” Cannon said. “We promote it to our networks. We did social media promotions across the city.’

Although Whitman-Walker doesn’t have the final draft of the questionnaire being presented to study participants, Cannon said he has seen “bits and pieces” of it.  

“They ask very direct questions about the person’s sex life, sexual partners, sex acts, numbers of partners,” Cannon said. “There are questions about condom use, PrEP use, drug use. How recently have you had sex? Lots of related questions,” he said.

“It’s really about trying to figure out effectively which are the best questions,” according to Cannon. “The hope is by analyzing the questions and identifying maybe the best 10 to 12 questions that can be universally used…to get the best answers that identify the individuals that may have the highest risk,” he said. Doing that, he points, out can help determine which men who have sex with men should be eligible to safely donate blood.

A statement released by Whitman-Walker last March calls the study a “monumental research effort” that has the potential to lift the stigma imposed on gay and bisexual men whose ability to donate blood is currently based on their sexual orientation.

“The ADVANCE study is designed to understand if, by asking carefully crafted and research-informed research questions, blood collectors can screen potential blood donors for their individual HIV risk factors rather than applying a ban against sexually active gay and bisexual men,” the statement says.

“The goal is to move away from overly broad questions that exclude potential donors and spread stigmatizing messages about MSM and their HIV risks,” it says.

Cannon said that as of last week, study organizers had recruited a total of 879 study participants nationwide out of the goal of 2,000 participants needed to complete the study. He said issues related to the COVID pandemic created delays in the recruitment efforts, but study organizers were hopeful the study could be completed by this summer.

Information about participating in the study or learning more about it can be obtained at advancestudy.org.

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Federal Government

Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records

About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity

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Graphic via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.

“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”

The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.

McDonough speaking at a Pride Month event last June at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, emphasized his support for Trans and LGBQ+ vets.

McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.

With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.

In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%).  In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.

McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.

“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.

All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.

Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.

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