Voters in Colorado have made Jared Polis the nation’s first openly gay elected governor. Polis speaks with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly about his plans while he’s in office.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
It’s not only women who made political history yesterday. In Colorado, Democrat Jared Polis has become the first openly gay person to be elected as a state’s governor. Polis thanked voters in his acceptance speech.
JARED POLIS: Tonight, right here in Colorado, we proved that no barrier should stand in the way of pursuing our dreams. We’ve proved that we’re an inclusive state that values every contribution regardless of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
KELLY: I should mention, Polis is no stranger to politics. He has represented Colorado as a five-term member of Congress. So Congressman and now Governor-elect Polis, let me say welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
POLIS: It’s a pleasure to be here, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So all kinds of headlines today, as you will have been reading, about how you’ve made history. Let me ask what this means to you on a personal level.
POLIS: Well, look; you know, I’m excited. You know, at the same point, we’re not quite in the place as a society where it no longer makes headlines. And I think where we want to get is where when people are elected, nobody is talking about their sexual orientation or gender identity because it’s no longer a big issue. But the fact that it is a big issue means that, you know, it still is on people’s minds. And I’m glad to break this barrier and hopefully make it easier for others.
KELLY: Yeah. There is a special poignancy to your win considering which state you have just been elected to run. As you know, back in the ’90s, Coloradans voted to amend the state constitution to – essentially to discriminate against LGBT people. What has changed? I mean, you’re talking about the work that still needs to be done. What’s changed in Colorado to allow this to happen?
POLIS: Well, I’m certainly proud of our state. I think we are a forward-looking and innovative state. Our state Senate – the first Native American to the United States Senate. And I think it’s a point of pride among Coloradans that we value people, our neighbors, our friends and even candidates for office based on their ideas and the content of their character and, you know, not based on who they love.
KELLY: I have to note, just this year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple – a baker who will now have you as his governor.
POLIS: You know, it’s important to remember – you know, I – when you’re elected governor, you’re everybody’s governor. I’m governor for people in Colorado who are conservative who didn’t vote for me, as well as, of course, being able to honor the aspirations of those who did vote for me. And I look forward to doing a good job for our state. I mean, when it comes to fixing our roads and reducing traffic, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight. When it comes to expanding health care coverage and saving people money, which is one of our big goals, it doesn’t have anything to do with who you love or what gender you are.
KELLY: Have you been hearing from people around the state, or around the country for that matter, today who are inspired by you becoming governor?
POLIS: Well, you know, again, on the one hand, I’m a little surprised that all the national media seems to be first gay governor. You know, it doesn’t – and I’m also the first Jewish governor of Colorado. And that got press, I think, in The Times of Israel or Haaretz but not – and maybe the Intermountain Jewish News but…
KELLY: So you’re making international headlines, too.
POLIS: Well, that’s on the gay side, too. So I don’t know, Mary Louise. Look; I just want to do a good job for the people of Colorado. I’m excited to break barriers. I’m excited to highlight the inclusive nature of our state, which we’re proud of, you know. And at the same time, while of course our faith to a certain extent shows our values and, of course, the fact that I’m open about who I am can certainly inspire some people, at the end of the day, we still have to fix the roads, improve the schools and save people money on health care. And that is really why I was elected. And that’s what we’re going to get to work to do.
KELLY: That’s Jared Polis of the state of Colorado. He is the nation’s first openly gay elected governor. Thanks again.
POLIS: Thank you, Mary Louise.
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