A Wedding 18 Years in the Making for Colorado Governor

Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado gets one question a lot about his Sept. 15 wedding to Marlon Reis. “People say, ‘You know, it took you a while to get married,’” Mr. Polis, a Democrat, said. “But what’s important to remember is that Obergefell v. Hodges wasn’t until 2015. So we really only waited six years.”

Obergefell v. Hodges is the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. Mr. Polis, 46, and Mr. Reis, 40, met 18 years ago. Back then, neither imagined he would one day be able to have a legal union. Finding others who identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in Boulder was hard enough.

“It was a relatively small community here,” Mr. Polis said. “There was no Tinder.” There were chat sites and forums that helped connect the community, though. Which is how Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis ended up meeting at Boulder Book Store in September 2003. First came a browse through the sci-fi section, then came dinner.

Mr. Reis, a writer whose focus is animal welfare and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, was in his last year of college at the University of Colorado. Mr. Polis was an entrepreneur with political aspirations; before he became governor in 2019, he served for a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the bookstore, “we just really hit it off,” Mr. Polis said.

By the time they attended MileHiCon, a gathering for science fiction and fantasy fans, a month later, they were falling in love. The weekend-long convention in Denver was, for Mr. Polis, a yardstick for compatibility. “I remember Jared being slightly nervous about it, saying, ‘This is the test to see if we can be around each other a few days,’” Mr. Reis said. “I had never seriously dated anybody. To my way of thinking, it was, Of course we’re going to be fine.”

They were. So much so that by the end of 2005, they had moved in together in Boulder. They have been committed to each other since, with most of their challenges as a couple coming from outside the relationship rather than within. “When we arrived in 2009, Washington was not really prepared,” Mr. Reis said.. “There were a lot of traditions based on the model member of Congress being a man and the spouse being a woman. Thank goodness that is changing dramatically.”

Mr. Polis has been present for a lot of those changes. Before he became the first governor to have a same-sex wedding while in office, he was the third openly L.G.B.T.Q. member of the House of Representatives. Before he stood on the steps of the Supreme Court the day same-sex marriage was legalized, he and Mr. Reis were already raising two children; their son is 9, their daughter, 7. “To me, having a family was very important, and Marlon was supportive of it,” Mr. Polis said. “Now we have a lively and exciting household.”

Credit… Jocelyn Augustino

Sometimes, the excitement is not the kind the family bargained for. In December, Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis got Covid. Mr. Polis’s symptoms were mild. Mr. Reis’s were serious enough that, on Dec. 6, his doctor advised him to go to the hospital. Mr. Polis, who had been hiding an engagement ring for Mr. Reis inscribed with the Hebrew verse Isaiah 11:16, didn’t want to wait any longer to propose. He got down on one knee and asked Mr. Reis to marry him before driving him to UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.

The scene, if romantic, was chaotic. “Our kids were upset and crying, and I was definitely scared,” Mr. Reis said. “In retrospect, it was a bit funny that Jared proposed that night. Because I said to myself, ‘OK, hopefully I’ll get better.’” The proposal, to which Mr. Reis had an instant, tearful yes, became a powerful incentive to beat the virus.

On Sept. 15, the anniversary of their first date at the Boulder Book Store, Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis were married at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theater at the University of Colorado in Boulder by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone.

The grooms wore vegan suits designed by Machete & Sons, a local bespoke tailor. Mr. Reis walked down the aisle with his father; their daughter was flower girl, their son ring bearer.

Only a few dozen guests, all required to test negative for Covid, attended. The ceremony was planned in homage to their ancestors. “The Jewish community has been through so much over the years,” Mr. Polis said. “We wanted to include a lot of traditional elements.” Those included the signing of a ketubah and the stomping of a glass to cheers of “mazel tov!” when they were pronounced married. A nontraditional twist came with the signing of their state-issued marriage license: One of their two witnesses was their terrier mix, Gia, who pressed her paw into an ink pad to mark the occasion legally. “She was our daughter before we had our daughter,” Mr. Polis said.

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