by Steven Rosenfeld
The announcement by Oregon’s four-term Democratic Governor, John Kitzhaber, that he will step down next week was quickly overtaken by the national media’s discovery that his successor, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, will be the first openly bisexual governor in U.S. history.
“An open LGBT governor has never been elected, although New Jersey did have an openly gay governor briefly in 2004, after Gov. Jim McGreevey (D) came out as gay and admitted an affair with a man he had appointed to a key job. He resigned three months later,” The Washington Post reported, also noting that “Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) became the first bisexual member of Congress in 2013.”
There are about 525 openly LGBT public officials in office at all levels of government, according to the Gay & Lesbian National Victory Fund. Most are Democrats, but about 20 are Republicans.
“Kate Brown will make history as the first openly bisexual American to become governor, and that makes us and the entire LGBT community extremely proud,” said Denis Dison, Victory Fund interim director. “More importantly for Oregonians, she’s a dedicated, passionate and impressive public servant who’s ready for this challenge. We believe in Kate Brown and her ability to lead Oregon through this difficult moment.”
Brown was first elected as a state legislator in 1991 and rose to become the Senate Majority leader before seeking statewide office. She was elected secretary of state in 2008 and reelected in 2012. Upon assuming office in 2009 she became the first openly bisexual statewide elected official in American history, according to the Victory Fund.
Brown has presided over several LGBT milestones in Oregon, including the arrival of marriage equality in May of 2014. Although she has been married to a man since 1997, she is widely seen in the LGBT community as a role model, speaking at many LGBT events and championing equal rights and equality.