Former Arizona Representative Jim Kolbe, a Republican, on Monday testified in favor of gay-inclusive immigration reform.

Kolbe, 70, came out gay in 1996 under the threat of being outed by activists angry over his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

Earlier this year, Kolbe signed on to an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to strike down California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kolbe discussed being forced to separate for a year from his fiancee Hector Alfonso, a Panama native.

“Despite being in a committed relationship and despite the fact that he remained in lawful status every day he had been here, Hector was forced to return to Panama when his work visa expired,” Kolbe testified. “Our twelve month separation, like that of any American from their spouse, was painful. Hector returned to Panama while he applied for another visa. Eventually, we accomplished this, but it was a long process and it was expensive – far beyond the reach of most families.”

“On May 18th – just a month from now – Hector and I will legally marry here in the District of Columbia, surrounded by family and friends. We are immensely fortunate that Hector has now secured an investment visa that allows him to remain here with me. Many other couples, however, are not as fortunate. Even if they, like us, have a marriage, civil union or life-long commitment to each other, their ability to secure a permanent solution that would allow them to build a home, family or business together is elusive and difficult to realize. It shouldn't be that way, and this committee has an opportunity to fix this problem,” he added.