A gay Republican former member of Congress is set to marry his partner on Saturday in a private ceremony after being together for eight years.
Jim Kolbe, who represented Arizona in the U.S. House from 1985 to 2003, is set to marry Hector Alfonso, a Panamanian native who came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue studies in special education and has been a teacher for two decades. The couple will marry at a private event at the Cosmos Club on Massachusetts Ave. in D.C.
“Two decades ago, I could not have imagined such an event as this would be possible,” Kolbe told the Blade. “A decade ago I could not imagine that I would find someone I could be so compatible with that I would want to spend the rest of my life with that person. So, this is a very joyous day for both of us.”
The couple had to endure a year-long separation when Alfonso returned to Panama while immigration issues were being sorted out, although he’s now in the United States on a green card.
Even though they’ll be married, Kolbe is unable to sponsor Alfonso for residency in the United States because of the Defense of Marriage Act. The former congressman testified before the Senate last month about the issue in hopes they would address it as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Kolbe came out as gay in 1996 amid pressure after his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. After he left Congress, Kolbe joined the German-Marshall Fund, where he’s specialized in trade issues.
The former lawmaker is also involved in LGBT advocacy. Kolbe was part of the delegation from Log Cabin Republicans that met with then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 over LGBT issues.