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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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National

65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member

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(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes

Five people killed in 2022 mass shooting in Colo.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colo., was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon, and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance — stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department — from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI — for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and, Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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Federal Government

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Garcia urges US officials to protect LGBTQ people during Pride Month

Gay Calif. congressman sent letter to top authorities on June 12

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Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sp) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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