Our colleagues at the Phoenix New Times had the story of the holiday weekend for anyone interested in Republicans, homopolitics, outing, immigration, and other sundry subjects we love to write about. Monica Alonzo’s gripping tale of how Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu allegedly threatened his Mexican ex-boyfriend “Jose” with deportation if he didn’t keep his mouth as tightly sealed about their relationship as the Tea Party wishes the border was led to Babeu outing himself and resigning from the Romney campaign.
Democrats and gay activists laughed at the hypocrisy of gay Babeu supporting a party and candidates that consistently deny LGBT Americans like him access to equal rights under civil law. The schadenfreude about Babeu in our twitter stream was as heavy-handed as the way Babeu was fondling “Jose’s” right pec inside his shirt.
But just a few paragraphs from the end of Alonzo’s story was this gem (h/t to Joe My God for pointing this out), which could provide a lot of gay drama for a Democrat in what will surely be one of the most watched congressional races in the country this fall:
Openly gay Tucson state Representative Matt Heinz was one of two Democratic lawmakers who broke ranks with the party in March 2011 and voted to give Babeu $5 million to combat border violence. Other lawmakers opposed the measure, in part, because Babeu’s county is at least 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The measure finally was pared down to $1.7 million and passed by the Legislature.
About a week after Heinz’s nod to Babeu, the sheriff spent the night at Heinz’s home, text messages that Jose shared with New Times show.
“I’m at Mat Heinz and his boyfriend for dinner & ice cream . . . we are going out to bar and . . . to their house. [Am] staying over,” Babeu texted to Jose at 1:04 a.m. last April 2.
Heinz didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking confirmation of the sleepover.
Egads. Did Heinz and his partner have a three-way with Babeu, shortly after Heinz helped send a seven-figure sum of money towards Babeu’s pet project? (Which was, ironically, to deal with border violence, something Babeu may have been doing in threatening “Jose”?)
Since he hadn’t returned Monica Alonzo’s phone call, we decided to ask Heinz directly, gay-mano-a-gay-mano, on his Heinz For Congress Facebook fan page:
Above is a screenshot of our question, which we imagine may disappear in the near future. (We also imagine that Heinz, and many a politician, may stop letting just anyone post to their Facebook walls.) If you can’t read the small text, this is what we asked:
Rep. Heinz, Steven Thrasher,Village Voice staff writer here. My colleagues at the Phoenix New Times have implied that you and your boyfriend had three-way sex with Sheriff Paul Babeu. Is this true? I am gay and do not think consensual acts of gay sex (or three-way sex) are unethical, wrong, or frankly anyone’s business beyond the parties involved. However, it looks bad for an elected official to have a “sleepover” with a government employee after helping steer $1.7 million in funds their way. As one of just a few openly gay people running for congress at a time of great trial for LGBT Americans, how do you think this looks? email@example.com / @steven_thrasher
There will, undoubtedly, be a lot of hand wringing within the LGBT community about whether or not it is fair to ask Heinz if he had a three-way with Babeu. There’s already a hot debate at Joe My God, with Joe getting the conversation rolling by writing:
We have no way of knowing what “staying over” actually means here, but you can bet that Babeu will be accused of fucking his way to that $1.7M grant. Would a heterosexual sheriff be allowed sleepover socialization with politicians who wield monetary influence over their agency? Of course he would. What a mess.
Well, being of the homosexual persuasion ourselves, we have a pretty good idea of what it means when a gay guy texts another gay guy at 1:04 AM that he’s “staying over” with someone.
Still, it would be unfair to pile on Heinz — one of just a handful of out gay Americans running for federal office in 2012 — for engaging in legal, consensual sex of any kind. As we talked at length with Lt. Dan Choi when we profiled him in 2010, and as we’ve talked with many activists in the LGBT community over the years, it’s unfair to humiliate or stigmatize homosexuals for engaging in sex. This happens all the time, and as the move towards same-sex marriage equality has ramped up in the past couple of years, there’s an attempt (even among gay members of the media) at times to avoid talking about hook-ups, grindr, open relationships, and other facts of gay life, and to pretend like every American gay couple is just like Ward and June Cleaver. Homosexuals should not be shamed for having sex any more than women should be shamed for accessing legal abortion. That a gay politician enjoys having legal sex (post Lawrence v. Texas, anyway) with his partner, or another friend or couple, is not in and of itself news.
But it would be unfair for any journalist, gay or straight, to look the other way when a gay state representative breaks party ranks to support a local sheriff’s unusual, multi-million dollar budget request, and then maybe ends up in bed with that sheriff a few days later.
So, Representative Heinz, what was the nature of Sheriff Babeu’s “staying over”?
We have no judgments about any sex acts which may or may not have happened. However, there are very few open LGBT members of congress, and we are awfully curious if a potential new one is spending off hours-time with (and sending money to) a closeted Republican who allegedly demonized his ex-boyfriend (and whose party routinely demonizes gay people who want to have monogamous sex, gay people who want to have group sex, and gay people who want to live like Ward and June Cleaver equally).
If Heinz was in bed with Babeu, and if he survives the fallout and wins congressional office it may, perversely, be a move forward in LGBT equality. After all, straight politicians have been in bed with lobbyists for years.