TUCSON — After years of rumors, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) reluctantly acknowledged he is a homosexual, saying a gay magazine was about to "out" him for voting against government recognition of same-sex marriages.
"There is some relief. Certainly there's no embarrassment," the 54-year-old Republican said Friday.
The six-term congressman issued a statement Thursday acknowledging he is gay after learning that the Advocate, a national magazine, planned to identify him as homosexual in a story about the "defense of marriage" bill.
Kolbe, who is divorced, voted for the bill, which would deny federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
The congressman said some gay advocates "decided they were going to make this an issue for me." He said he was angry, but not for long.
"I felt if they were going to do that, it was time for me to stand up and be counted on this thing," Kolbe said.
He said the bill was a states' rights issue. Approved overwhelmingly by the House on July 12, it would create a federal definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman and allow states to reject gay marriages from outside their boundaries. It awaits Senate action.
Jeff Yarbrough, editor in chief of the Advocate, said the magazine felt it was hypocritical of Kolbe to live a "semi-open homosexual life" in certain circles in Washington but vote against a "pro-gay referendum."
But the decision to "out" him was difficult because of his overall voting record on gay issues, Yarbrough said.
"He has been a friend, even though a closeted friend," he said. The Advocate's story will appear in its Aug. 20 issue.
Kolbe said he had been much more open lately after years of fending off speculation about his sexual orientation.
Calls of support streamed in from colleagues, constituents and family.
"He has always had and will continue to have my full support," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "As his friend, I ask all Arizonans to remember that Jim, although he is a public servant, retains the right to some privacy in his personal life."
Kolbe "will become a source of inspiration for the moderate wing of the Republican Party, a person around whom they can rally," said David Clarenbach, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
"I think it's of no consequence whatsoever," Gov. Fife Symington said of Kolbe's announcement. "He has served this state well, both in the Legislature and in Congress."
Three other members of the House have acknowledged being gay--Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) and Democrats Barney Frank and Gerry E. Studds, both of Massachusetts.