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Outed GOP sheriff finds gay support

Kolbe endorses Babeu’s run for Congress

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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.”

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated

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(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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