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Florida Lawmaker Fabian Basabe Opens Up About Being Cleared of Sexual Harassment Claims by Male Staffers

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The Republican also talks about not wanting to be known as an LGBTQ+ lawmaker although Basabe, who is married to a woman, once said he was "a gay candidate."

Florida state GOP Rep. Fabian Basabe wants media covering an investigation clearing him of sexual harassment accusations against male staffers. But he doesn’t want to be known as an LGBTQ lawmaker.

“I try not to fall into the game of identity politics. I'm a human with compassion and empathy,” Basabe said. “I do recognize that certain members want to be singled out as an additional part of the community and I say, ‘More power to you’ and I celebrate them. I've been in the Pride parades. I'm at every bar whether it be a straight bar, gay bar, dive bar, fancy bar, anywhere I can go where I think there's great conversation and great energy.”

Basabe once notoriously told an LGBTQ gathering, "I am a Republican, and I am a gay candidate running for office in Miami Beach." But married to a woman and stressing a reputation as a family man in campaign literature, Basabe said he’s focused today on stopping over-classification of citizens.

“I identify as a father and as a man who is true to himself and represents the idea of living and loving as one is emotionally and heartfully guided,” Basabe said. “As for my private life, I am of an adult age therefore entitled to live any lifestyle I choose, as is reinforced by all this legislation we passed.”

The Miami politician spoke to The Advocate about the recent probe of accusations by a former aide and staffer, former employees who are also suing Basabe over allegedly inappropriate treatment.

“I can't believe how much press these accusations got,” Basabe said. “It's amazing to me that the responsibility of all of the people that market it, these accusations, aren't going to take the same level of responsibility to correct or at least update people.”

Two former employees, legislative aide Nicholas Frevola and former intern Jacob Cutbirth, accused Basabe of perpetually demanding they have sex with him. The Florida House hired Tallahassee law firm GrayRobinson to investigate the claims, and investigator Marlene Quintana reported the allegations could not be independently confirmed. Basabe called the months-long investigation, the second he’s faced since his election in November, should show voters the allegations had no merit.

“People that have sat in front of me, met me face to face, looked me in the eye, and had real conversations and gotten to know me, I don't think that they really paid much mind to this manufactured scandal,” he said. “Certainly, my friends and my family are unaffected by this in a way that I think was intended. Do they like that I've been mistreated? That I that I've been intentionally embarrassed and misrepresented. No. It was really offensive. It was disrespectful. But I'm learning that that's politics.”

Basabe has faced calls for his resignation this year, though that came based on his support for controversial policies. Equality Florida organized protests at the Florida Capital and a Miami Beach Pride event after Basabe voted in favor of expanding Florida’s controversial “don’t say gay” law.

The Republican said that law continues to be misunderstood. He said he worked within the legislature to make sure the parental rights bill focused on curriculum, and did not regulate spontaneous discussion of LGBTQ+ issues.

“It's not telling you not to teach sex ed in the sex ed class,” Basabe said. “It's saying if you're the math teacher, don't teach science. If you're a history teacher, don't teach PE. Focus on what the approved curriculum is for the 42 minutes class is in session, and do your job.”

But just this month, a nonbinary physics teacher was fired from Florida Virtual School simply for asking students to use an ‘Mx.’ prefix with their name instead of ‘Mrs.’

Basabe considers that a misapplication of the law.

“That's where politics comes in. Now you have a college board or school board or whatever it is, whoever fired this person, misinterpreting the law and making an example because it's sensational for media,” he said. “But that's 100 percent not what the law states. In fact, the law says the exact opposite. The law of the pronouns is there in case if you use the wrong pronoun, you don't get to lose your job over that.”

Basabe represents a Democratic-leaning district, and the Miami Beach district boasts one of the highest concentrations of LGBTQ+ voters in the state. He faces a challenge next year from former Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders, one of Florida’s first out lawmakers.

The Republican this year has filed bills this year seeking a repeal of a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and another that would codify marriage equality as state law. Out Florida Rep. Michelle Rayner, a Democrat, has notably pursued such a change in law previously but to no avail. Basabe believes as a Republican, he may have an easier time rallying votes for the bill in a Legislature with a GOP supermajority, but said he’s discouraged Democrats won’t work with him on the effort.

The Republican has been progressive on other social issues, and refused to vote last year on a six-week abortion ban. He’s drafting legislation now to expand the period when women can obtain abortions legally in the state.

That all begs the question why he caucuses with Republicans at all.

“Government should be about the economy,” Basabe said. “The social issues are reserved for, I guess, creating fundraising opportunities for either side or pandering to either extreme.

“Very few people have made the argument that the Republican platform is not the better one for the economy. But we have some work to do on the social issues.”

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