Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) Who Once Voted For DOMA Is Getting Married To A Man Next Month
I had already ended my time as the pop music critic for The Advocate in 1996 when Arizona Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe came out as gay. But I still recall the stir around the magazine because they had decided to publicly "out" Kolbe after he voted for DOMA, which was meant to prevent gay couples from marrying. Since almost everyone in Washington already knew Kolbe was gay, the homophobic vote seemed especially hypocritical. Kolbe decided to beat The Advocate to the punch by calling a press conference and announcing he was officially out of the closet.
Within days of the vote on the Defense of Marriage Act, they began a blistering campaign on the Internet to compel Mr. Kolbe to disclose that he himself was gay, a practice known as outing.He also spoke yesterday-- at the Senate Judiciary Committee, this time urging senators to include gay couples in the immigration bill they're working on. He and his partner, Hector Alfonso, are getting married in May.
The campaign reached its peak last week with a full-page ad in the Washington Blade, a newspaper that reaches a nationwide gay audience, calling on "all closeted gay and lesbian members of Congress" to "end your silence and defend your community."
On Thursday night, Mr. Kolbe spoke.
Kolbe, a Republican who represented the Tucson area in Congress for 11 terms, has a partner from Panama who had to leave the United States after his work visa expired, bringing his teaching career in this country to an abrupt halt. Under current law, Kolbe could not sponsor his partner for a family reunification visa.Kolbe's come a long way since voting for DOMA, as has public opinion (not to mention France and Delaware, each of which legalized marriage equality earlier today)... but his party hasn't. The vast majority of Republicans in Congress are still hateful and virulent homophones-- or at least pretending to be-- and oppose marriage equality and immigration equality. Let's see if he can convince any of the Republican closet cases Congress-- like Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Aaron Schock (R-IL), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Dave Camp (R-MI), etc.-- to support the LGBT community even before being officially outed.
Kolbe's partner was able to return to the United States from Panama a year later after obtaining an investment visa, which allows immigrants who invest in new U.S. businesses to live here. But Kolbe said the process was long and expensive, costing more than many people can afford to spend.
"Our laws should not separate American citizens from their loved ones for such unacceptably long periods of time," Kolbe told the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding a series of hearings on an 844-page immigration reform bill drawn up by a bipartisan group of eight senators. Among the bill's authors are Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.
The committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has introduced separate legislation, the "Uniting American Families Act," that would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners to come to the United States using family reunification visas. That controversial provision is not part of the sweeping reform bill, although gay rights' advocates are urging that it be included.
"While the bill you are considering is an excellent starting point for reform, I submit to you that it is still incomplete," Kolbe told committee members. "Families like mine are left behind as part of this proposal. Equally important, U.S. businesses and our economy suffer because of the omission of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families from the bill introduced last week."