The recently outed gay sheriff of Pinal County, Ariz., says if he’s elected to Congress he’ll support pro-LGBT initiatives and help change perceptions lawmakers have about gay people.
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade, Paul Babeu, who’s running to represent Arizona’s 4th congressional district in Congress, said his election would be “very impactful and helpful” in changing “the views, perceptions, beliefs about who we are.”
“If they know me first as a sheriff, as a police officer who has responded to, literally, thousands and thousands of emergencies, has fought criminals, has actually saved lives and served our country in the military for 20-plus years … and when regular people see those accomplishments and those results first, then understand at a later point that I am gay, it changes people’s beliefs and perceptions and understanding,” Babeu said.
The Blade interview marks the first time Babeu has spoken to the LGBT media since he came out during a news conference earlier this month.
Babeu, elected as sheriff in 2008 and considered a rising star in the Republican Party, gained national attention after the Phoenix New Times on Feb. 17 published allegations that he threatened to deport his ex-boyfriend, Jose Orozco, a Mexican national and campaign volunteer, after their relationship soured. The article included semi-nude photos he reportedly sent to Orozco and a picture from what appears to be his adam4adam profile.
In a news conference following the article’s publication, Babeu denied the allegations against him save for one: he publicly acknowledged that he’s gay. Babeu has since accused Orozco of identity theft, which Orozco’s attorney has denied.
Asked to comment on Babeu’s assertions about the situation, A.D. Horan, Orozco’s lawyer, told the Blade, “Jose denies the allegations and intends to cooperate fully with the state’s investigation.” Horan declined to comment further.
Although his race to win the Republican nomination will likely be more difficult while facing these allegations, Babeu told the Blade he’s “110 percent in the race for Congress.”
“It will be a harder fight, and I never turn from a fight,” Babeu said. “I shall stand and work harder than I ever have in my life on my accomplishments, on my service.”
Babeu said he believes voters in his district will accept him because “we’re different as Americans” and “we’re exceptional people.”
“When though we’ve overcome many hurdles and obstacles, and none of us are perfect, in America, we define ourselves by the value we add in our communities,” Babeu said. “We see our differences as a strength, whether it’s our religion, our ethnicity, our gender, our [sexual] orientation. Those are the same liberties and freedoms I personally defend and fought for, and that’s why I continue to stand up and fight now.”
Babeu said he’s “not ashamed” of his sexual orientation, but added, “I’m just not going to define myself solely on the fact that I am gay.”
If elected to Congress, Babeu said he’ll be “a strong fiscal conservative” and advocate for “spending within our means,” but also will support pro-LGBT legislative measures.
Among the initiatives Babeu said he supports is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, noting he’s “in favor of eliminating any discrimination” and adding that workers should be evaluated solely on their performance and merit.
Asked whether he supports the idea of President Obama issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies, Babeu said he’d have to “look into it” but would support such a directive “on the surface.”
Additionally, Babeu said he would “certainly vote to repeal” the Defense of Marriage Act and said he thinks the anti-gay law exceeds the authority of the government under the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m a strict constitutionalist as well,” Babeu said. “As a strict constitutionalist, this has no business at the federal level. This should go to the states.”
The sheriff said his opposition to DOMA is in line with his belief that the government shouldn’t tell religions which individuals they can or can’t marry.