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February 24. 2012

News Briefs

Arizona sheriff and Romney co-chair is outed by his ex

Phoenix--A gay Republican sheriff and congressional candidate is in the midst of a major scandal that forced him to resign his post as co-chair for Mitt Romney’s Arizona campaign, although he is still running for Congress.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is accused of threatening to have his Mexican ex-boyfriend deported because he would not sign a document promising to keep their years-long relationship a secret. The story broke in the February 16 issue of the Phoenix New Times.

Jose Orozco said that Babeu threatened to have him deported, cut off his business and  tell his family he is gay. The two met in 2006 on a gay dating website, and Orozco because a volunteer on Babeu’s campaign for sheriff.

After the scandal broke last week, Babeu confirmed that he was gay, saying that it was not a secret in the first place. Babeu opposes illegal immigration and smuggling--he was featured in a 2008 campaign ad where John McCain says, “Complete the danged fence”--but said last week that he supports same-sex marriage.

However, Babeu denied Orozco’s accusations and in turn accused him of theft, identity theft, fraud and impersonation, and asked the Gila County attorney to investigate.

In another twist, openly gay State Rep. Matt Heinz voted to give Babeu millions last year to combat border violence, despite Pinal County being over 70 miles away from the border. Heinz broke ranks with all but one of the other Democrats in the House by voting for the measure.

A week later, Babeu texted Orozco at 1 am that he would be spending the night at Heinz’s house with Heinz and his boyfriend. While speculations about the nature of the visit abound, the Village Voice’s Steven Thrasher, who is gay, sent Heinz a question via his Facebook page, asking him directly if there was a sexual threesome that night. The question was posted on the Heinz for Congress Facebook page.

Heinz is running for the seat being vacated by Gabrielle Giffords.

Feds won’t defend bar to G.I. spouses

Washington, D.C.--Attorney General Eric Holder on February 17 informed Rep. John Boehner, the Cincinnati Republican serving as Speaker of the House, that the administration will not defend laws barring same-sex spouses of military personnel from getting benefits from the Pentagon and Veterans Administration.

Title 38 of the United States Code defines “spouse” as a person of the opposite sex, so the V.A. is barred from granting same-sex partners spousal benefits.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit on behalf of a lesbian veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and her wife, Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris. The letter told Boehner that the Obama administration would not defend against the suit.

“The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans,” Holder wrote. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.”

The administration has already dropped its defenses of the Defense of Marriage Act, believing that Section 3 is unconstitutional. The clause bars any federal recognition of same-sex spouses for things like Social Security or immigration.

Boehner and other Republican leaders in the House of Representatives pushed through a measure in a bipartisan committee allowing the House to take up defense of DOMA, which he has done at taxpayer expense. The speaker is likely to do the same thing with the Cooper-Harris case.

Civil union proposed in West Virginia

Charleston, W. Va.--Del. John Doyle introduced legislation to legalize civil union for same-sex couples on February 16.

Doyle said that same-sex couples should not be deprived of the safety net that opposite-sex couples enjoy.

It is the first time such a bill has been put before the state legislature, although Doyle has also put forward a bill barring discrimination by sexual orientation in housing and employment, which has not moved.

Is Illinois next for marriage?

Springfield, Ill.--Illinois Reps. Deb Mell, Kelly Caddisy and Greg Harris filed a bill on February 8 for full same-sex marriage in the state, which already has a civil union law.

Their bill, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, specifies that religious groups cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriage that are against their beliefs, an increasingly common tactic in marriage equality legislation designed to undercut the false claims that same-sex marriage laws would force churches to perform gay weddings.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed onto the Mayors for Marriage Equality initiative of the Freedom to Marry organization at the United State Conference of Mayors winter meeting in January, but the legislature is likely to focus first on their March 20 primaries and then on the state budget.

Civil union legislation supporter David Koehler, a state senator, told the Chicago Tribune, “It’s going to be a tough year to pass any legislation that’s outside of budget and pension issues. It’s going to more of an election-year agenda in the state legislature.”

 Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.





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