Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona) served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 to 2007 and was the second openly gay Republican member of the House.
" The cause for all gay persons . . . will be advanced when we focus not on what sets us apart from our fellow Americans but on what we share in common. "
Congressman Kolbe is the first Republican to represent southern Arizona since statehood. He is recognized as a leading proponent of free trade. He serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs of the House Appropriations Committee, which funds most U.S. foreign aid programs, narcotics interdiction efforts, and counter-terrorism activities. Kolbe is known for his advocacy of Social Security and immigration reforms.
The Congressman's interest in politics began early in life. At 15 he left the family ranch in Arizona to serve as a Senate page for Senator Barry Goldwater. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Northwestern University and an MBA from Stanford University. He was awarded the Navy commendation medal, "V" for valor, for his service in Vietnam. Prior to his election to Congress, he served in the Arizona state senate.
Kolbe was for a time the only openly gay Republican serving in Congress. When he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in 1996, Kolbe said,
"This is the best day of my life, really. I feel a tremendous burden lifted. It's a relief. I'm being totally honest about myself to friends and family. It feels wonderful."
In 2000, Kolbe became the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention.
After completing his eleventh term in Congress, Kolbe announced that he would not seek reelection for a twelfth term in 2006.Bibliography:
- Bull, Chris, "The Reluctant Warrior," The Advocate, Nov. 7, 2000.
- Shull, Kathleen, "Interview with Congressional Rep. Jim Kolbe," Entertainment Magazine, Feb. 17, 2001.