Connect with us


Outed GOP sheriff finds gay support

Kolbe endorses Babeu’s run for Congress



Jim Kolbe (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A gay former congressman is throwing his support behind Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, days after the congressional candidate came out as gay.

In an interview with the Washington Blade, former Rep. Jim Kolbe, who served in Congress from 1985 to 2007, endorsed the candidacy of his fellow Arizonian Republican, who came out over the weekend after he was outed by the Phoenix New Times.

“I endorse Paul Babeu based on his distinguished record of service to his country both in the military and as a law enforcement officer,” Kolbe said. “I think he has a solid understanding of the short and long-term economic problems that face this country and is willing to make the necessary, tough decisions to tackle them.”

In the New Times piece, Jose, whose last name wasn’t disclosed, alleged Babeu threatened him with deportation after their relationship soured. The article included shirtless photos of the candidate allegedly sent to Jose and a picture that appeared to be his adam4adam profile.

But Babeu denied the allegations against him at a news conference held on Saturday — except the news about his sexual orientation — and came out as gay. In a later interview Monday on CNN, Babeu admitted to dating Jose, but said the allegations about deportation threats aren’t true because he doesn’t have the authority to deport undocumented immigrants, only the authority to arrest them.

Kolbe, now a fellow at the German Marshall Fund think tank and a consultant at Kissinger McLarty Associates, came out as gay himself in 1996 after LGBT rights groups criticized him for voting in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Kolbe said he wouldn’t draw a comparison between his coming out and Babeu’s announcement because “every person has a different story of coming out.”

“The obvious similarity for Paul and myself is that we are both in public office, while the obvious difference is that I was already in Congress, while he is seeking election to the Congress,” Kolbe said. “Beyond that, every person faced with a similar situation has a unique story of how and when they decide to come out and how it is dealt with.”

Kolbe said he knew about Babeu’s sexual orientation prior to the candidate’s announcement on Saturday based on conversations the two had previously.

“I knew he was gay,” Kolbe said. “That is the only thing that I can say that I knew. We had several little discussions about that in my conversations with him. That’s all I would say about that.”

Even though he was in a relationship with an immigrant, Babeu has taken a hard line on the issue of immigration during his political career. During an appearance at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, Babeu criticized the Obama administration for fighting in court the state’s strict law against illegal immigration.

Babeu, whose campaign didn’t respond to an interview request from the Washington Blade, could break from conservative ranks on LGBT rights if elected to Congress. He suggested that he supports same-sex marriage during his CNN interview, saying “this is where I go Ron Paul on people” and adding that the issue should fall to the states.

“This is where our government needs to get the heck out of the way, and if it’s not harming somebody, then what does it matter?” Babeu said. “And you can’t legislate love.”

Babeu added that he believes in freedom of religion and “there are faiths and religions that our government shouldn’t get involved in that absolutely do not condone gay marriage” while saying he doesn’t believe the government should tell other faiths they can’t support it.

The candidate’s coming out means four openly LGBT candidates are running for Congress in Arizona — more than any other state in the country. Besides Babeu, Democratic Rep. Matt Heinz and state Sen. Paula Aboud are running to succeed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who’s bisexual, is also running. On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed Sinema.

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

Whether Babeu, elected as sheriff in 2008 and once considered a rising star within the GOP, can remain viable is an open question. In a conservative state with a large evangelical Christian and Mormon population, he’s come out, faces allegations that he tried to deport someone and has acknowledged being in a same-sex relationship with an immigrant. Babeu stepped down from his position as co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Arizona after the allegations broke.

Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas, Austin, said Babeu faces difficulties because of the allegations against him in addition to being an openly gay candidate, but said Arizona has a surprising track record on LGBT issues and candidates.

“I’m not sure I would make the same assessment in other states, but Arizona Republicans have a record with the gays,” Theriault said. “At the end of his life, Sen. Barry Goldwater was a big proponent of gay rights and Jim Kolbe, a gay Republican, represented Gabby Giffords’s district before she did.”

When asked during the CNN interview whether he would become active with the Log Cabin Republicans, Babeu replied, “I’m sure.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin, said he has spoken with Babeu as he has with other Republicans seeking election to Congress.

“We had a relationship with the candidate and the campaign prior to him coming out, so there’s no change there,” Cooper said.

Cooper said his group doesn’t endorse candidates in the primary season. After the nominees are decided, Cooper said Log Cabin will announce its endorsements in the fall.

Asked where Babeu stands on LGBT issues, Cooper pointed to an editorial he wrote for The Washington Times. The piece says Babeu is “already making the case for equality in a way that resonates with Republicans” by being openly gay and notes his service in the armed forces while serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Chris Barron, chief strategist of the gay conservative group GOProud, said he isn’t aware of his organization having had any conversations with Babeu and said his campaign hasn’t reached out to the organization.

“Our efforts here have been on the presidential election, not on reaching out to congressional candidates,” Barron said. “We hear from candidates all the time, and it’s very early in the election season to be talking about House and Senate candidates, especially with a presidential election going on.”

Denis Dison, spokesperson for the Victory Fund, said his organization hasn’t had any conversations with Babeu and that he wouldn’t be able to talk about any interactions the candidate would have with the organization at a later time.

“If we do work with him, we’d do it privately and we wouldn’t be able to talk about it in the press, but I can confirm that we have not talked to him,” Dison said.

Asked whether Babeu would be eligible for a Victory Fund endorsement, Dison pointed to the criteria on the organization’s website, which states candidates the organization supports must be openly LGBT; demonstrate community support and a realistic plan to win; show support for efforts to advance LGBT rights; and demonstrate support “to safeguard privacy and reproductive freedom.”

HRC declined to comment for this article. If the group is interacting with Babeu, it wouldn’t be the first time it has helped a public official with the coming out process. In 2004, then-New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey reportedly sought HRC’s advice when writing his coming out speech.

Kolbe said he wasn’t aware of contact between LGBT advocacy organizations and Babeu’s campaign.

“That’s a decision that those organization have to make and he has to make — whether he wants that coordination or not, or that assistance,” Kolbe said. “I think he’s quite capable of putting together a pretty substantial campaign on his own with the people and the volunteers that he’s got.”


Puerto Rico

Two men charged with attacking trans Puerto Rican woman plead guilty to federal hate crimes charges

Alexa Negrón Luciano attacked with paintball gun before her murder



(Bigstock photo)

Two men on Monday pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges in connection with attacking a transgender woman in Puerto Rico in 2020.

A Justice Department press release notes Jordany Laboy Garcia, Christian Rivera Otero and Anthony Lobos Ruiz “were out driving together” in Toa Baja, a municipality that is about 15 miles west of San Juan, early on Feb. 24, 2020, “when they saw” Alexa Negrón Luciano “standing under a tent near the side of the road.”

“The defendants recognized A.N.L. from social media posts concerning an incident that had occurred the day prior at a McDonald’s in Toa Baja,” reads the press release. “During that incident, A.N.L. had used a stall in the McDonald’s women’s restroom.”

“Upon recognizing A.N.L., Lobos-Ruiz used his iPhone to record a video of himself yelling, ‘la loca, la loca,’ (‘the crazy woman, the crazy woman’) as well as other disparaging and threatening comments to A.N.L. from inside the car,” it notes. “The defendants then decided to get a paintball gun to shoot A.N.L. and record another iPhone video. Within 30 minutes, they retrieved a paintball gun and returned to the location where they had last seen A.N.L., who was still at that location. Lobos-Ruiz then used his iPhone to record Laboy-Garcia shooting at A.N.L. multiple times with the paintball gun. After the assault ended, Lobos Ruiz shared the iPhone video recordings with others.”

Negrón was later killed in Toa Baja.

Laboy and Rivera pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a hate crime and obstruction of justice. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, notes a federal judge sentenced Lobos to two years and nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to hate crimes charges last November.

Laboy and Rivera are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10.

They, along with Lobos, have not been charged with Negrón’s murder.

“To assault an innocent victim who posed no threat to the defendants for no other reason than her gender identity is reprehensible behavior that will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico in the Justice Department’s press release. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity, to be free from hate-fueled violence. Our community must stand together against acts of violence motivated by hate for any group of people — we remain steadfast in our commitment to prosecute civil rights violations and keep our communities safe and free from fear.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, on Tuesday welcomed the guilty pleas. Serrano also urged authorities to bring those who killed Negrón to justice. 

“The time for total justice for Alexa is now,” said Serrano in a press release. “Her murder was a hate crime. Nobody doubts this. They falsely accused her, persecuted her, hunted her, insulted her with transphobic epithets, uploaded onto social media a video of them accosting her and they killed her. There are already three individuals who will serve time in federal prison for attacking her in a hate crime. That’s some justice, but not complete.” 

Continue Reading

Federal Government

Barbara Lee: PEPFAR is ‘more in peril’ than ever before

Congress has yet to reauthorize funding for Bush-era HIV/AIDS program



U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) speaks about the future of PEPFAR at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference in D.C. on Sept. 22, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

California Congresswoman Barbara Lee on Sept. 22 said the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is “more in peril” now than at any point since its launch two decades ago.

“This program is reauthorized every five years, but it’s always on a bipartisan basis,” said Lee during a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference that took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. “As we approach the benchmark of an AIDS-free generation by 2023, it is unfortunately more in peril now than ever before.”

Then-President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation that created PEPFAR.

Lee noted PEPFAR as of 2020 has provided nearly $100 billion in “cumulative funding for HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and research.” She said PEPFAR is the largest global funding program for a single disease outside of COVID-19.

New PEPFAR strategy includes ‘targeted programming’ for marginalized groups

The panel took place amid the continued push for Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR for another five years. The federal government will shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress does not pass an appropriations bill.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken last December at a World AIDS Day event in D.C. acknowledged HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ and intersex people and other marginalized groups. A new PEPFAR strategy the Biden-Harris administration announced that seeks to “fill those gaps” over the next five years includes the following points:

• Targeted programming to help reduce inequalities among LGBTQ and intersex people, women and girls and other marginalized groups

• Partnerships with local organizations to help reach “hard-to-reach” communities.

• Economic development and increased access to financial markets to allow countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, tests and personal protective gear to give them “the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else.”

The Family Research Council Action in an email to supporters urged them to tell Congress to “stop Biden from hijacking PEPFAR to promote its radical social policies overseas.” Family Watch International has said PEPFAR “has been hijacked to advance a radical sexual agenda.”

“Please sign the petition to tell the U.S. Congress to ensure that no U.S. funds go to organizations that promote abortion, LGBT ideology, or ‘comprehensive sexuality education,'” said the group in an email to its supporters. 

A group of lawmakers and religious leaders from Kenya and other African countries in a letter they wrote to members of Congress in June said PEPFAR, in their view, no longer serves its original purposes of fighting HIV/AIDS because it champions homosexuality and abortion.

“We wrote that letter to the U.S. Congress not to stop PEPFAR funding to Kenya, but to demand the initiative to revert to its original mission without conditioning it to also supporting LGBTQ as human rights,” it reads.

Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.

American officials earlier this year postponed a meeting on PEPFAR’s work in Uganda in order to assess the potential impact the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act will have on it. The law, which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed on May 29, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Biden in his U.N. General Assembly speech last week noted LGBTQ and intersex rights and highlighted PEPFAR. Family Watch International in its email to supporters included a link to the letter from the African lawmakers and religious leaders.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated both the FRC and Family Watch International as anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

“[PEPFAR is] not about abortions,” said Lee.

HIV/AIDS activists protest inside house speaker kevin mccarthy (r-calif.)’s office in d.c. on sept. 11, 2023. (washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power during the panel referenced Bush’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post that urged lawmakers to reauthorize PEPFAR.

“The way he put it is no program is more pro-life [than] one that has saved more than 25 million lives,” said Power.

Power referenced the “manufactured controversy that is making it difficult to get this reauthorization.” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. John Knengasong said a failure to reauthorize PEPFAR would weaken “our own foreign policy and diplomacy.”

“Once again the United States will be missing in action,” stressed Lee.

Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary for Legislation Melanie Egorin and Kenny Kamson, a Nigerian HIV/AIDS activist, also spoke on the panel that MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart moderated. 

From left: U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. John Nkengasong and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power discuss the future of PEPFAR at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in D.C. on Sept. 22, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Continue Reading

The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke



President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade