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Topics In the News
Hypocrisy, Karma, and Ingratitude: Former Congressman Jim Kolbe and DOMA
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 10/25/12
Last updated on: 10/26/12
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Jim Kolbe.

Former U.S. Representative Jim Kolbe was forced out of the closet after hypocritically casting a vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. After being outed his voting record on glbtq issues substantially improved. However, in the wake of his recent engineering of the Log Cabin Republicans' endorsement of Mitt Romney, we learned not only how he has been personally affected by the discriminatory law he supported, but also how he continues to display both hypocrisy and ingratitude.

Kolbe was elected to Congress in 1985, representing Arizona's newly created 5th District, which includes Tucson. He served as U.S. Representative until 2006, when Gabrielle Giffords succeeded him in the position.

In Congress, he was best known for his interest in trade issues, especially as a champion of the North American Free Trade Act, globalization, and immigration, interests that he has continued to pursue since leaving Congress.

For many years while he served in Congress, his homosexuality was an open secret, one that was kept by both the mainstream media and the alternate media as well. Outing was generally considered inappropriate by the gay press, and respectable newspapers did not report on the homosexuality of public figures unless they were charged with a crime or volunteered the information.

However, in the advent of the AIDS epidemic many activists came to believe that closeted politicians and other figures who worked against equal rights needed to be exposed as hypocrites and traitors. Journalists and activists such as Michael Petrelis, Mike Rogers, Kurt Wolfe, and Michelangelo Signorile, among others, defended the ethics of outing in such circumstances.

Hence it was that when Kolbe cast his vote in favor of DOMA, he became a target of activists. Wolfe, for example, discussed Kolbe's sexual orientation on WBAI radio in New York and on Boston's cable television program Out in New England.

Within days of the vote on DOMA, activists launched a blistering campaign on the Internet to compel Kolbe to disclose that he himself was gay. They sent e-mail messages to journalists and others pointing out Kolbe's hypocrisy.

They soon took out a full-page ad in the Washington Blade, calling on "all closeted gay and lesbian members of Congress" to "end your silence and defend your community."

Faced with this pressure, and apparently believing that The Advocate was planning a story in which he would be outed, Kolbe finally issued a statement acknowledging his homosexuality.

"That I am a gay person has never affected the way that I legislate," he said. "The fact that I am gay has never, nor will it ever, change my commitment to represent all the people of Arizona's Fifth District."

He thus became the second Republican member of Congress to come out, following Representative Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin, who was outed in 1994 on the floor of the House of Representatives by homophobic Representative Robert Dornan of California.

Gunderson was the sole Republican member of the House of Representatives to vote against DOMA. The two openly gay Democratic members of the House then, Representative Gerry Studds and Barney Frank, also voted against the discriminatory measure.

Kolbe explained his vote in favor of DOMA as follows: "If the citizens of Hawaii believe it to be in their public interest to permit same-sex marriages, they should be permitted to do so. By the same token, other states--as Arizona has done--should be allowed to define marriage differently and not be required to accept the definition adopted by others."

Of course, he failed to acknowledge that what DOMA also does is to forbid the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages in the states that choose to permit them. He also seemed unaware then that another consequence of DOMA is that the federal government will not recognize gay or lesbian relationships for immigration purposes.

Kolbe weathered the storm caused by his outing, and his voting record in Congress on gay issues dramatically improved, although for many years he said he preferred civil unions over same-sex marriage.

In 2010, in a gesture of bipartisanship, President Obama appointed Kolbe to a presidential advisory committee on trade relations.

Karma is a bitch. That truism became obvious as news reports circulated this week about Kolbe's role in engineering the Log Cabin Republicans' endorsement of Mitt Romney.

According to Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, Kolbe, a trustee of the Log Cabin Republicans, was among the small group who attended a secret meeting with Romney on October 17, 2012 at Greenwood Farm in Leesburg, Virginia.

At the meeting, Kolbe, who has been for several years in a relationship with a Panamanian national, Hector Alfonso, reportedly whined to Romney about the feared deportation of his partner as a result of DOMA. Romney allegedly nodded but offered no response.

Not only is Karma a bitch insofar as DOMA has come to affect one of its proponents quite personally, but this scenario is both richly ironic and viscerally repulsive. Kolbe's kowtowing to Romney, who has vowed to defend DOMA, is pathetic and undignified.

Worse than that, Kolbe's support for Romney illustrates a failure of character. More specifically, it exposes his failure to acknowledge the debt he owes to the President of the United States. Alfonso is likely allowed to remain in this country only because of President Obama's direction to the immigration service not to enforce deportation orders against the foreign-born partners of gay and lesbian citizens. For partisan purposes, Kolbe is happy to stab in the back the very person who has acted to keep his partner in the country.

Kolbe is not only a hypocrite, but also an ungrateful bastard.

If Kolbe gets his wish that Romney is elected President, he will undoubtedly, as a well-connected man of wealth and privilege, be able to finagle and abuse the system so that his partner will continue to get work visas or otherwise be allowed to stay in the country.

Other foreign-born partners of gay and lesbian citizens will not be so lucky.

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