The LGBT community achieved a major first on Tuesday night when Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) became the first openly gay person to win election as governor in the United States.
NBC News declared Polis, a Democrat and five-term member of Congress, the winner over his Republican opponent in the Colorado gubernatorial race, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, shortly after polls closed in Colorado at 7 pm local time.
In addition to being the first openly gay person elected governor, Polis — who’s in a relationship with Marlon Reis — is the first person in same-sex relationship to be elected governor in the United States. The couple is raising two young children.
Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement LGBT people “have dreamed of the moment when voters would overcome tired stereotypes and elect an openly gay man who stands proudly with his partner and family – and this is that moment.”
“Colorado has undergone a transformation that parallels the changing attitudes in the country at large,” Parker added. “In just 25 years, Colorado went from being labeled a ‘hate state’ for its anti-LGBTQ voter-approved ballot initiative to becoming the first state in the nation to elect an openly gay governor. This is the evolution we will fight for in states all throughout the country – both red and blue – because we know voters are ready to support authentic, values-driven LGBTQ candidates who speak to the issues that matter most. Jared shattered a lavender ceiling in Colorado, but its effect will extend well-beyond the state’s borders.”
Polis’ victory was expected amid anticipation of a “blue” wave in the congressional mid-term election. Polls in recent weeks consistently showed Polis ahead of Stapleton by a single-digit margin.
The key messages for Polis in his campaign were expanding health care, free full-day preschool, encouraging renewable energy and building the state’s economy. In terms of LGBT issues, Polis said in an interview with the Washington Blade he’d support signing into a bill banning widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy for youth in his state.
A co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus in the U.S. House, Polis also took the lead on LGBT issues in Congress. Polis was lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Polis is also a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, education, jury selection, federal programs, credit and public accommodations.
Having served in the House since 2009, Polis became the most senior openly gay member of the House after the retirement of Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin’s election to the Senate. (After Polis departs Congress, that distinction will fall to Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).)
Although Polis is the first openly gay person elected governor in the United States, he won’t be the first governor who is openly gay. That distinction belongs to former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who came out as gay in 2004 after already being elected, but before resigning amid scandal.
The first person elected governor representing the LGBT community as a whole was Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who’s bisexual, assumed office in 2015 by being in the line of succession after resignation of the previous governor and subsequently won election in 2016. (Brown was up for re-election this year. Check the Blade website for updates on her race.)