political spouses

We All Know How Much Pressure Is On Rep. Jared Polis. What About His Partner?


We all know what life is like on The Hill for Rep. Jared Polis: Beer funnels and coming out stories. But what’s life like for his partner Marlon Reis, the writer and animal rights activist? First and foremost, he’s learned to be flexible. But also, to always have his ID on him. Reis writes:

To be a congressional spouse, one must be, above all else, flexible. So I was told when I arrived in D.C. 10 months ago. At the time of my introduction, I was something of a novelty among the spouses. At 28 years old, I was one of the youngest spouses in the U.S. Congress. Jared is the second-youngest congressman. Almost immediately, I was mistaken for a staff aide; then again, for a son designated to attend in place of a spouse. More times than I care to remember, I was told, “But you’re so young!”

Rarely has anyone seen me for what I actually am. I don my “Congressional Spouse” lapel pin proudly and hope each time not to be questioned, yet I still receive sideways glances and orders to produce an official ID. It is as if my story is too unbelievable to be true, that I am an interloper, someone in a place I do not belong.

Perhaps this has to do with my being the partner of the first openly gay man to win a seat as a nonincumbent. I have noticed among those I meet a tincture of incredulity; a reluctance to accept that which has not been seen before.

[…] Each time we encounter injustice is an opportunity to be uncompromising, to prove a point, to not back down, but to pave the way. When, on the basis of our same-sex relationship, the military attempted to bar me from accompanying Jared on a congressional delegation to Seattle, we fought and I triumphantly took my seat alongside the other spouses.

When I was told by Member Services that my lost ID should never have read “spouse,” that the government recognizes me only as a “designee,” I prepared to fight — but then found the original card. Doubtless, these are but the opening acts of a years-long play about justice and the steady march of progress. For this, and for all we have to look forward to, I thank our constituents for the chance to change the world.

And what’s personal time like?

We take time, when we have it, to enjoy dinners together, to play video games, to walk our new puppy and to celebrate life’s happy moments. Like any couple working to make things right, we check in with each other to be sure it all hasn’t gotten to be too much.