Republican congressional candidate Paul Babeu, who was outed as gay last week and accused of threatening his ex-boyfriend with deportation, said Monday that he supports same-sex marriage and the right of gays and lesbians to serve in the military.
"If it's not harming somebody else, then it doesn't matter," the Arizona sheriff said of same-sex marriage in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "You can't legislate love."
Babeu also denied claims by his ex-boyfriend -- a man identified as only Jose by the Phoenix New-Times, which broke the news of the allegations -- that he and his attorney had threatened the man with deportation. Babeu acknowledged that he had had a relationship with Jose, and said it lasted for about three years.
"One, he's legal. He has said that. I've said that," Babeu said. "And then, in addition, this whole thing about deportation, we all know I don't have deportation authority. I have the authority to arrest. There were several crimes committed here against me and my campaign."
Jose volunteered for Babeu's congressional campaign, updating his website and handling social media. Babeu said that after the two had broken up, Jose committed crimes against him, including posting defamatory information online under Babeu's name. Babeu first mentioned the alleged crimes on Saturday, when he held a press conference to discuss Jose's allegations.
Babeu stepped down on Saturday from his position as Arizona co-chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. A spokeswoman for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said Babeu was cutting ties with the campaign in order to "focus on the allegations against him."
Babeu told CNN that Jose's claims were politically motivated, questioning why he had decided to come forward now.
"The timing of this should be clues to everyone that's listening," he said.
He also said it was not the first time he'd been attacked for being gay. During his time in the military, Babeu said, his fellow service members had reported his sexuality to higher-ups, something he said shouldn't happen as "we progress in society." When he commanded troops, he said, he knew that some of the men and women who served under him were gay, as were some of the most exemplary service members that he had met.
Same-sex marriage should be allowed in states that vote to approve it, he said, although it should not be mandated in cases where religions prohibit it.
Babeu said that being gay should not impact the way voters think of him, adding that he may work with the Log Cabin Republicans, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian Republicans, and that he wanted to focus on the issues.
"Our party is the big tent, as Ronald Reagan talked about, the party of Lincoln, of equality," he said. "This is not something I believe, in this day and age, should by itself defeat or elect any candidate, even in this Republican party."
"This is 2012. I should be judged on merit, on my performance and results," he added.