Reitan was born in 1982 in Mankato, Minnesota into a Lutheran family and is one of four siblings. He came out to his parents while a junior in high school. In high school, he helped create the first gay-straight alliance at Mankato West High School. He graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, majoring in Communication Studies and Political Science. He received his masters from Harvard Divinity School. He is attending the University of Minnesota Law School.
After some experimentation in 2005, he and Haven Herrin launched Soulforce's Equality Ride Project in 2006. He was arrested for trespassing at Liberty University in March where he said: "We want to come to the school today to say, 'learn from history.' We have a right to be here, because this school teaches that being gay is being sick and sinful. We have a right to question and to show how we are children of God." A few weeks later at West Point, just before being arrested, he said that "We're going to take this country by storm and in five years' time, it's going to be a different country because of us."  When he, Herrin and a third friend attempted to enlist in the Minnesota National Guard to protest the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, he was not immediately rejected, but told his arrest at West Point would need to be resolved first. Advocate Magazine named him as one of its People of the Year for 2006 and Out Magazine named him one of the Out 100 people of 2006.
- Daily Helmsman: David Hanners, "Activist rethinking Christianity's view of homosexuality," January 17, 2011, accessed March 10, 2012
- Tampa Bay Times: Waveney Ann Moore, "They ask, and tell," June 25, 2006, accessed March 10, 2012
- Huffington Post: "Jacob Reitan", accessed March 10, 2012
- Fox News: "Gay Rights Activists Arrested at Liberty University," March 10, 2006, accessed March 10, 2012
- "Gay trio tries to enlist in Minnesota Guard". Multimedia Holdings Corporation. 2006. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
- The Advocate: Gretchen Dukowitz, "Young Crusaders," December 18, 2006, accessed March 10, 2012
- OUT Magazine: "Four on Four: Jacob Reitan on Bayard Rustin," November 5, 2011, accessed March 10, 2012
- MetroWeekly: "Equality U", 2009, accessed March 10, 2012
- Keane, Meghan (October 5, 2007). "A Heartfelt Look at One Side of a Debate". New York Sun. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
- "Film Clips/Also Opening Today". San Francisco Chronicle. October 12, 2007. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
- "Minnesota activist Jacob Reitan on hand for historic morning ceremony ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". minnpost.com. December 22, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2011.