Arizona sheriff quits Romney campaign — where’s the benefit from having to lie about your life?

Pau Babeu at his coming out press conference
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A local sheriff resigned as a co-chair of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s campaign in Arizona on Saturday after he was accused of threatening a former male lover with deportation to Mexico if he talked about their relationship.

In an embarrassing incident for Romney’s struggling campaign, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu denied that he or his lawyer made the deportation threat but stepped down from helping the former Massachusetts governor in the border state.

Babeu acknowledged at a press conference on Saturday that he is gay and that he had a personal relationship with the man making the allegations, whom he identified only as “Jose…”

The Phoenix New Times alternative newspaper reported on Friday that Babeu’s lawyer had asked Jose to sign a legal agreement that would require him to keep quiet about his involvement with the sheriff. According to the newspaper, the lawyer also warned Jose that any talk about their relationship could imperil his immigration status.

“All of these allegations that were in one of these newspapers were absolutely false, except for the issue that referred to me as being gay, and that is the truth. I am gay,” Babeu said at the news conference.

Babeu first came to statewide prominence in 2010 when he appeared in a campaign ad for U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee two years earlier, calling for tough immigration measures.

The sheriff, who is a tough law-and-order advocate, was considered a rising star in state Republican politics and a strong candidate to win the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in Arizona this year.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” — might be the first response among the religious who wander through here. It worked for Woody Guthrie as well.

There are differences from one civil rights struggle to another. When I walked away from White America in 1955 to spend my spiritual, social and political career grounded in Black America and the fight for civil rights, the essential divisions in the struggle couldn’t be more clear. Black folks weren’t especially likely to be disguised as white. Politics, rarely, yes; but, the bigotry and discrimination in everything from employment to schooling to where you could live were easy to define for the miserable bastards in charge.

Not quite as much for Hispanics; but, close enough. You aren’t going to disguise the fact that you’re a woman except in movie scripts. But if you’re gay – passing is easy as pie. Just don’t tell anyone and don’t get caught acting like yourself. So, gay folks who happen to be politically or socially conservative don’t need to invent Black Power which becomes Green Power – needn’t invent the Hispanic Leadership Fund which becomes Green Power – needn’t invent the Eagle Forum which becomes Green Power – they can keep their mouths shut about Log Cabin Republicans and just make noises like Republicans.

When push comes to shove, however, and reality becomes the truth, you’re subject to the same discrimination and bigotry as your peers already living out of the closet. They have the benefit of defending who they naturally are, the ease of only telling the truth instead of remembering last week’s lie about where you were and with whom.

So, Paul Babeu – I wish you well in your new life in the open. Please reflect on your former buddies, political supporters, allies in fighting for the sort of society you thought worthwhile. A lot of them are going to be the first to turn their backs on you.

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