Gay Sheriff Paul Babeu Prompts Intriguing Questions
Read the whole article here. It’s well written and well rounded.
A few days ago, the Yavapai Tea Party gathered at a church in rural Arizona to discuss the all-too-familiar topic of illegal immigration. Among the conservative, mostly over-55 crowd, it is a subject seen in black and white. Build a fence, add agents, reject amnesty—period.
And so it was all the more striking when, off to the side in a room with “Jesus Loves Us!!” written on a chalkboard, the conversation turned to the subject on everyone’s mind, if not the agenda: The conservative Arizona sheriff and Republican candidate for Congress who less than a week earlier had admitted to reporters, his constituents—indeed to the world—that he is gay.
The absolutes were, in large part, absent.
Consider the comments of Bill Halpin, a 64-year-old ex-Air Force pilot who serves on the local tea party board: “I care less. I just care less. Don’t preach it on me. Don’t push it on me and, by golly, I respect your rights.” And this from Mona Patton, the 60-year-old real estate agent who is the group’s president: “I’m a Christian, but who am I to make a judgment about somebody else? I don’t have that right, and I look beyond that. … I still believe in him. I still back him. I still like him. That doesn’t affect that.”
Then, on Friday, The Arizona Republic reported that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether one or more of Babeu’s employees at the sheriff’s office engaged in on-the-job politicking.
As a columnist for that newspaper wrote earlier in the week: “Sheriff Babeu is not in political (or perhaps legal) trouble because his lifestyle has been exposed. He’s in trouble because he was involved in a messy relationship that spilled over into his public life and has raised questions about his judgment. And when you’re running for the U.S. Congress your judgment is an issue. … It isn’t a gay thing. It’s a trust thing.”
Whatever the “thing” is, the reaction to it has—thus far—not been quite what some may have expected.
When Babeu posted a link to his news conference on his Facebook page and implored voters to “stand with me as we talk about the issues that matter,” more than 1,000 comments flooded in. While some expressed disappointment and said that the sheriff had lost their support or branded him a hypocrite for being gay and Republican, the vast majority supported Babeu—from locals who know him to out-of-staters declaring that they, too, are conservative and gay.