The Reluctant Warrior

By Bull, Chris | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), November 7, 2000 | Go to article overview

The Reluctant Warrior


Bull, Chris, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


The only openly gay Republican in Congress, Jim Kolbe prefers to work behind the scenes for gay rights

At the Republican national convention in Philadelphia in July, Jim Kolbe was given a coveted prime-time slot on the podium. The only openly gay GOP member of Congress used the rare opportunity to reach a national television audience to advocate for what has become his signature issue: free international trade.

The three-minute speech pleased almost no one. The party's antigay delegates held a silent prayer vigil on the convention floor to protest George W. Bush's decision to give a gay man a speaking slot, waving signs declaring THERE IS A WAY OUT. Gay activists complained that by addressing the convention, Kolbe condoned the antigay planks in the party's platform. Even gay Republican leaders, who consider Kolbe a hero and had lobbied hard for his selection, whispered among themselves that he had failed to work any references to gay rights into his remarks.

But for Kolbe, that was precisely the point. The chairman of a powerful House appropriations subcommittee, he has earned the respect of his colleagues for his strict devotion to the concerns of Arizona's fifth congressional district. "Frankly, I was surprised I was asked to speak," he said in an interview with The Advocate, his first since publicly identifying himself as gay in 1996. "It's nice that gay Republicans think of me as a leader, but Bush asked me to speak about trade, which is my area of expertise. I was not asked to speak about gay rights, and that's not something my district is particularly interested in hearing about."

Despite his growing national stature within the GOP and a substantial financial campaign chest, Kolbe may have good reason to be worried about voters closer to home. The eight-term congressman faces a tough campaign against a well-financed foe, George Cunningham, in an increasingly Democratic district that encompasses Tucson and rural areas around it.

"There are very few people who will say anything negative [about my orientation], but we know from our polls there are some older conservative men who will express it when they go to the polls," Kolbe says. "One percent here or there can make the difference. It doesn't help that Bush is doing more poorly in Arizona than expected, which will keep Republican voters at home."

Kolbe may be overestimating the threat of antigay votes in his district, says Peter Goudinoff, a professor of political science at the University of Arizona who served with Kolbe in the state legislature. "There is a rural population that is Mormon and traditionally very conservative," he says. "The fear is that someone could mobilize a homophobic vote. But I don't see that materializing. His Democratic opponent knows it would blow up in his face if he played that card. In essence, I don't see sexual orientation as a factor at all."

The fear of inspiring an antigay backlash makes Kolbe especially cautious when addressing gay issues. Over the past two years Kolbe, through his aides, has turned down numerous interview requests from The Advocate. Kolbe's chief of staff, Fran McNaught, said earlier this year that if it were up to her, Kolbe would "never" grant an interview to this magazine. Reached at home in late September, Kolbe finally agreed to talk, commenting that his staff had advised him against it.

Kolbe is a reluctant torchbearer when it comes to gay issues. Some of his reluctance stems from an aversion to talking about his personal life, but some of it comes as a result of the opposition he faces from his own party. "In some ways the Republicans have not come as far as the Democrats," Kolbe admits. "But I think we do better in treating gay people as individuals rather than as members of special interest groups that need special treatment."

That stance often puts Kolbe in an awkward position when it comes to aggressively lobbying his House colleagues on hate-crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban antigay bias in the workplace. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Reluctant Warrior
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.