Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Openly Gay Congressman Discusses Capitol Dynamics

Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) discussed the challenges he confronts as an openly gay member of Congress on Wednesday.

The most senior openly gay member of the House of Representatives, Polis also became the first openly gay father to serve in Congress when he was elected in 2008.

Polis, a vocal supporter of LGBTQ issues in federal politics, discussed the way Congress’ view of theLGBTQ community has changed since his election.

“For the first time, we are hiring a full-time person to staff our LGBTQ Equality Caucus. It’s a much bigger coalition — there are six of us now. I can’t even keep track of all the gays anymore,” he joked.

However, he said that Congress is still less accepting than the U.S. mainstream in a number of respects.

“The spouse system is still very sexist toward women,” Polis said. “There’s a Congressional spouse club and they give all of the spouses, like, purses or something. My partner commiserated with the other male spouses. In general, though, sexual orientation doesn’t come up much.”

In addition to hearing about Polis’ challenges as a gay member of Congress, students were given the chance to ask the politician about issues ranging from immigration and education reform to gun control and marijuana legalization.

Polis, the former chair of the Colorado State Board of Education and the founder of several charter schools, called for improvements to low-performing schools and the evaluation of educators.

The representative was supportive of President Obama’s recently announced push for immigration reform in his second term.

“I’m very excited because this is long overdue for everything under the sun,” he said. “Right now, there’s a real window for Congress to get this done.”

In light of the Aurora shooting in his home state of Colorado this past summer, Polis also advocated for gun control.

“I think a universal background check is good,” he said. “We also don’t want to stigmatize or paint with a broad brush that people with depression or mental illness are more likely to commit a crime, because they’re not.”

Polis discussed his position as program chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“We need 17 seats to gain the House. We have 53 that we’re on the offensive of and about 10 to 12 we’re trying to defend,” Polis said. “The biggest thing is recruiting good candidates — I spend a lot of time convincing people this is the best job in the world.”

While a committed Democrat, the congressman reflected on the fact that the partisanship seen within Congress is simply a reflection of larger divisions within the country.

“In general, I think members of Congress can get along fine together. It just reflects the divide in the country,”  Polis said. “It’s a very diverse country and most ideas on the spectrum of politics have someone who represents them.”

Polis further demonstrated the variety of positions he holds in Congress while regaling the audience with anecdotes from a meeting he had attended earlier in the day with Vice President Joe Biden and Jewish members of Congress regarding Obama’s upcoming trip to Israel.

“If you see a picture of Obama playing basketball with kids in Israel, that was my suggestion,” he joked.

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