EDITORIAL & PRODUCTION
Executive Editor CHRIS CRAIN
ErJtor ERIC ERVIN
Art Director ROB BOEGER
Production Manager ERIC GOINES
Graphic Designer USA HENOERSON
Graphic Designer JASON LAVINDER
Graphic Designer tOREN CONTRERAS
(^respondents DVANA BAGBY. KELLY CARSON,
LOU CHIBBARO. JR.. MUBARAK DAHIR, MIKE
FLEMING. JOHNNY HOOKS, PHIL LAPADULA
RYAN LEE. JOSHUA LYNSEN. GREG MARZULLO.
BRIAN MOYLAN. KEVIN NAFF, ANDY 2EFFER,
KATHERINEVOLIN, ELIZABETH PERRY
Contributors DON MAINES, DAWN RORIE, ELLA
TYLER, JA CHAPMAN AND RICH ARENSCHIELDT
Photograpliere DALTON DEHART,
Online ErJtor STEVE KOVAL
Webmaster ARAM VARTIAN
Assistant Webmaster STEVE RYAN
SALES & ADMINISTRATION
Classified Sales /Office Administrator
National Advertising Representative
Rivendell Media • 212-242-6863
PUBLISHER Window Media LLC
PRESIDENT Peter Polimino
EXEC. V.P. EDITORIAL Chris Crain
ART DIRECTOR Rob Boeger
C.O.O. Mike Kitchens
CEO. Steve Myers
MARKETING DIRECTOR William Kapfer
Established 1974 as the Montrose Star.
500 Lovett Blvd. Suite 200
Houstoa Texas 77006
Fax (713) 529-9531
Office hours: 9 a.m.-5:30 pjn. weekdays
To submit a letter
Letter should be fewer than 400 words We reserve the
right to edrt for content and length. We will withhold names
upon request but you must include your name and phone
number for verification. Please send mail to Houston Voice.
500 Lovett Blvd. Suite 200. Houston. Texas 77006; fax (713)
529-9531 or e-mail to edrtir'a-hjoustonvoee^bni. Opinions
expressed therein do not reflect those of the Houston Voice.
All material m Houston Voice rs protected by federal
copynght law and may not be reproduced without the
written consent a* Houston Votce. The seaual orientation
o* advertisers, photographers writers and cartoonists
published herein is neither interred or implied. The
appearance of names or pictorial representation
fag m| mti.am) ndtoit** tbt Ml orientation
of that person or persons.
Houston Voce accepts unsolicited editorial
material but cannot take responsibility tor its return
The editor reserves the right to accept, reject or edit
any submission All rights revert to authors
upon Dubkation. Gwdelines for freelance
contributors are available upon lequest
JULY 7, 2006
Who's better than you, Congressman?
No one is better suited than Jim Kolbe to address the plight of gay bi-national couples, and
doing so would help right an old wrong at the same time.
By CHRIS CRAIN
T'S NOT OFTEN THAT
life offers an opportunity for
redemption — the chance to
right an old wrong, to address
and perhaps even correct a
serious error from the past.
Congressman Jim Kolbe has
one of those rare opportunities. With one public act, he could make a symbolic statement
that would finally cleanse an ugly mark that
will othenwse stain his record in office
lb some, Jim Kolbe's "sin" would be years
in public life as a gay Republican, and leaving
the party could redeem him. That's the painful
path taken by many gay Republicans —
including me — disillusioned by the stranglehold social conservatives have on the GOP
Kolbe owes no apologies for his party
membership. To the contrary he has done
an admirable job of sticking to his principles over the decade since he acknowledged,
after 12 years representing a moderate district near Tucson, Am., that he is gay
He has stood by his support for gay rights
even though it bucked his party leaders, and
he withstood shameful treatment from the
GOP's right-wing, which literally turned its
back on him when he spoke — on international trade issues, not gay rights — at the
2000 Republican National Convention.
A better case could be made that Kolbe
ought to atone for a relatively poor gay
rights record in his early years in the U.S.
House. He was first elected in 1984, and
even in the mid-1990s was voting against
the interests of his own people — gay
people — about half the time, according
to the Human Rights Campaign.
But that was before Kolbe came out
publicly in 19%. Since then, he has scored
at or near a perfect score for each and
every term, playing an important private
role on a range of gay issues.
JTM KOLBE'S "SIN" IS, RATHER, A SINGLE
horrible vote, cast back in 1996 for the so-
called Defense of Marriage Act, and now he
has a unique opportunity to strike a blow
against one the harshest, most mean-spirited side effect* of that nefarious law.
DOMA was a ticking political time bomb
foisted by a conservative Republican
Congress on Bill Clinton, the Democratic
president who cowardly signed it into law.
Kolbe paid a quick psychological price. He
believed — wrongly as it turns out — that
the Advocate was planning to publish an article outing him for supporting DOMA, so
Kolbe acknowledged publicly that he is gay
Still, in all the years since, Kolbe has never
renounced the DOMA vote and, remarkably
enough, hasn't yet spoken out in favor of gay
marriage, even though he has lobbied against
a federal marriage amendment
Perhaps he rationalizes his support for
DOMA the way some others have, as
"states rights" legislation that really just
prevents one state that marries gay couples from "forcing" every other state to
legally recognize those marriage licenses.
But Kolbe knows better than that. DOMA
goes much further, blocking the federal government as well from giving any legal recognition to married gay couples.
Among the thousand-odd federal rights and
benefits afforded to married heterosexual couples, but blocked from gay couples by DOMA,
is the ability of a gay American to sponsor a
same-sex spouse who is not American for permanent residence in the US.
Without federal recognition of their relationships, many gay Americans are faced
with a cruel choice when temporary visas
inevitably expire: end the relationship or
live in exile. It's one thing for the U.S. government to deprive gay taxpayers of their
rightful benefits as married Americans, but
it's quite another to force them to choose
between their partner and their country
KOLBE KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THE
intolerably harsh treatment of gay bi-national couples. In fact, the issue lies at the inter
section point of his public and private lives.
Among House Republicans, Kolbe has
gained stature as a leading moderate on general immigration reform issues. In the current debate, he has backed a combination of
stricter border control popular among many
back home in Arizona, while offering to
those undocumented immigrants already in
the US. a path toward citizenship.
Because his views on immigration are
largely aligned with President Bush,
Kolbe is viewed as a key White House ally
in the House, where his party leaders are
much more strident.
On the personal side, as Kolbe acknowledged in an interview with the Blade this
week, he is in a relationship with a foreigner, a man from Panama living in the U.S. on
a temporary visa. Kolbe was even escorted
by his handsome partner, who he has
declined to identify, to the I-og Cabin
Republican's national convention.
At the black-tie gala that concluded that
gathering on April 29, Kolbe was honored
for his years of service, and he gave by all
accounts a rousing speech that called on
gay Republicans to speak out against injustice against gays whenever they see it.
As they listened to Kolbe's speech, a
number of high profile gay Republicans
in attendance no doubt thought about the
struggle bi-national couples face. For no
good reason beyond coincidence, three top
officers in the previous Log Cabin leadership slate are, like Kolbe, in relationships
with foreigners from Latin America.
Again, I include myself in their number.
So it is 1996 all over again, and Congressman
Kolbe's personal and private lives are coming
together in one piece of legislation. This time
around, Kolbe has co-sponsored uie Uniting
American Families Act, which would allow gay
Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for*
permanent residence here.
It's fair to ask why he has not leveraged
his influence on immigration reform, and
his unique access to White House policy
makers, to raise UAFA and the plight of
gay bi-national couples. The answer he
gave, in an interview this week with the
Blade, was that immigration reform was
already too dicey, and too divisive, to
throw homosexuality into the mix.
"There aren't enough people who know
about this problem," he said. "It's a matter
of making more people aware of it."
So let's connect the dots. There is no
single person in a better position than
Jim Kolbe to "make more people aware of
it," and the most important people at that.
He is retiring at the end of this term,
so he can speak more freely than most. By
all accounts his post-Congress plans don't
include lobbying his former colleagues, so
offending ultra-right Republicans carries
no professional risk.
By voting for the Defense of Marriage
Act. Jim Kolbe helped get us — and him
self and some of his closest gay Republican
friends — into this mess. Maybe a stirring
speech from the House floor, or even his
well-known negotiating prowess, can't win
passage this term for UAFA.
But when it conies to
"making more people
aware of" this injustice,
who's better than you,
£1 is executive
Houston Voice and can
be reached at ccrain