Partners of gay members of Congress face unequal treatment, too

It’s not easy being the significant other of a member of Congress as the partner of Jared Polis recently found out. Kerry Eleveld broke the story:

When the partner of freshman Colorado congressman Jared Polis went to get his Congressional Spouse ID last February at Member Services, he thought the new administration had dawned a new day for same-sex partners of Congress members.

“They just snapped my picture and wrote ‘spouse’ on it,” recalled Marlon Reis, who celebrated his sixth anniversary with Polis in September, though the couple is not legally married. “It took all of five minutes — it was so easy that it gave me the impression of a semipermanent policy change.”

But the 28-year-old’s attempt to join Polis in June on a congressional delegation (known as a “CODEL” in Hill-speak) was a different story entirely.

We all thought a new day had dawned. But, it’s been a much different story. Reis was supposed to be on that June trip. But, the Department of Defense wouldn’t include him — and wanted to charge him. That wasn’t the case for spouses of other members. There was a bit of a scene when Reis showed up to get on the bus. Another member had to intervene on his behalf.

There seems to be a bit of a blame game pinging back and forth between the Speaker’s Office and the Pentagon:

According to a spokesman for the speaker’s office, Nancy Pelosi has had an ongoing dialogue about the issue with DOD ever she first became House speaker in 2007.

“She made a request of the Defense Department to treat any spouse of a lesbian or gay member of Congress the same as any congressional spouse. That means a domestic partner would be treated just as a congressional spouse,” said Drew Hammill. “That in effect, has been our understanding and what we’ve been told will take place.”

A Department of Defense official said congressional spouses are authorized to travel with a member for protocol purposes when stated in the committee or leadership authorization letter to the secretary of Defense. Who is in included in that authorization letter is up to the speaker’s office, according to the DOD.

As for Reis, he is holding on to his Congressional Spouse ID, which expires in February of 2011, a little more tightly. Not long ago, he misplaced it and Branton was told by Member Services that they had issued it in error and would have to replace it with a Designee ID, which is the classification reserved for unmarried partners of members of Congress.

Perhaps the people who run the Department of Defense could stop these games and insure that Pelosi’s policy is enacted. Would that be too much to ask?

Of course, repealing DOMA is the best solution — even for gay members of Congress and their spouses/partners.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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