A former Arizona state senator currently serving as an elected official in Mohave County is under fire for making homophobic remarks.
Mohave County Supervisor Ron Gould on Tuesday falsely claimed to the Kingman Daily Miner that gay men have an average life expectancy of 42. Asked whether he believes gay men die younger because of their sexual orientation, Gould said, "That's why they die."
He added: "We all have our sins, but we should try to suppress them. Alcohol is harmful, too, but we don't see groups promoting alcoholism."
Gould served in the Arizona State Senate from 2005 to 2013, representing a district in western Arizona, including his hometown, Lake Havasu City. He was elected to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors in 2018.
It's unclear from what source Gould gathered that bogus statistic. He did not respond to request for comment. Nor did the state lawmakers who represent his district, including State Senator Sonny Borrelli and State Representatives Regina Cobb and Leo Biasiucci.
Gould probably got the number from an unscientific study conducted by the anti-gay Family Research Institute in 1994. Researcher Paul Cameron — who was terminated from the American Psychological Association over his research methods — counted obituaries in newspapers serving the LGBTQ community and allegedly found an average life span of 43 for gay men.
The flaws in Cameron's approach were innumerable, but Slate named a few more than two decades ago after Ronald Reagan's Education Secretary William Bennett cited the statistic on national television:
The deaths reported in these papers, mostly AIDS deaths, will tend to represent the community defined by such papers or directly known to their editors. It will include relatively more subjects who live in town and are overtly gay and relatively few who blend into the suburbs and seldom set foot in bars. It will overrepresent those whose passing strikes others as newsworthy and underrepresent those who end their days in retired obscurity in some sunny clime.
In a phone call, Mohave County Manager Mike Hendrix declined to comment on Gould's statement. "All I can tell you is Mohave County does not discriminate in our employment or people who wish to do business with us," he said.
Gould's interview with the Daily Miner stemmed from a controversy in Mohave County over a woman he appointed to a zoning and development board. Mohave County residents called for LaJuana Gillette's removal from the board after she made a series of racist Facebook posts on immigration.
"We must stop the minorities from coming here and trying to change us," Gillette wrote on Facebook in early August. In the same post, Gillette named two municipalities in California with relatively large proportions of people of color, including the Asian-majority Monterey Park and Latino-majority Arvin.
"We have cities now that you would not know you are in the United States," she wrote. "Monterrey [sic] Park and Arvin in California for instance. If you drive thru [sic] Arvin you would think you are in Mexico. All the signs in Mexican. Monterrey Park, all the signs are in some Asian language. What happened to the melting pot? This is happening more and more. We actually have Muslim communities now in the U.S. And they are using Sharia law. We had better wake up before we lose America for our children and grand children.""
In another Facebook post, Gillette implied that "black and brown" people can get away with not doing their jobs if they claim that their critics are racist.
"So, if you are black or brown you don't have to do your job!" Gillette said. "Because if anyone, like the President, mentions that you aren't doing your job, they are RACIST! This is the answer to any criticism, you are a RACIST!"
Reached on the phone, Gillette said she misspoke when she said that "we must stop minorities" from coming to the United States. "Instead of minorities, I should have used immigrants."
Asked why it's a problem that some communities have business signs that are not in English, Gillette said: "Is this America? Is this the United States, and do we speak English?"
She claimed that the only reason she was being attacked is because she is a conservative.
"If I turn out to lose my position on the Planning and Zoning Commission, so be it. If I lose it, I'll live," Gillette said. "I'm 84 years old. I've lived my life. They can't ruin my life."
During an August 6 meeting of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, six Mohave County residents spoke out against Gillette's comments and several called for her removal from the board.
"Words matter," said Mark Shaver, who is black. "I'm not here to step on anyone's free speech. I'm here to voice my concerns about the content of that speech and the reflection she poses as an adviser of this board."
Another resident, Mary McCord Robinson, said that she questions whether Gillette can make unbiased decisions as a zoning commissioner. Robinson noted that she is in an interracial marriage.
"If my husband were to come forward and present something, and she were there, could she really be objective?"
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.