Jared Polis as a Gay Standard Bearer

In recent days, both Denver dailies have published articles noting that a number of influential activists who also happen to be gay are backing former Senate president Joan Fitz-gerald in her 2nd Congressional District race against a prominent gay candidate, Jared Polis. The Rocky Mountain News' piece on this topic appeared on December 15, while the Denver Post's variation appeared on page one of the December 17 issue. The latter contains several modestly defensive quotes from Polis. At one point, he declares, "It's insulting when somebody who is not a member of our community feels like they have a great understanding of what it's like to grow up gay in this country." Later, he declares, "I try to treat my orientation the same way I would if I was straight, which is to talk about it when it's relevant."

Interesting phrasing, particularly given how Polis dealt with similar topics back in August 2004, when my feature-length profile of the Internet entrepreneur turned political powerhouse appeared in Westword.

Back then, rumors of Polis's sexual orientation were in wide circulation, and while I had no interest in outing him against his will, I did ask him directly about these rumblings. At that time, he declined to address anything that touched upon affairs of the heart, which is certainly his right. However, he did provide one telling comment: "It would be difficult to incorporate a relationship into my current lifestyle." This remark is particularly interesting in light of an assertion in the aforementioned Post report that he's been with his partner, writer Marlon Reis, for four and a half years. If that's a fact (and if my math is correct), he and Reis were an item at the time of the Westword story, thereby rendering his earlier claim to yours truly notably coy and disingenuous -- and that's applying the kindest possible standards.

Whatever the case, Polis has identified himself as a gay man for a relatively small portion of the time he's spent in the public eye; for instance, he ran for and served an entire term on the state's board of education without mentioning it. How he handles such matters won't define his current campaign, but it may well provide interesting insights into a person who's trying to transform himself from a man who did much of his work behind the scenes into a very public figure. -- Michael Roberts

Update, 12-17-07, 12:10 p.m.:

Moments ago, Jared Polis sent an e-mail that takes on the apparent variance between a statement about relationships published in Westword circa August 2004 and a Denver Post article stating that he and current companion Marlon Reis have been together for four and a half years. Here's the note:

Michael,

I met Marlon around the time of your interview with me. We moved in together in the summer of 2005. It was indeed difficult to incorporate a relationship into my busy lifestyle, but fortunately I found a partner who is understanding and supportive.

Jared Polis

Not sure if that quite clears up the arithmetical discrepancy. But for what it's worth... -- MR

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