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For First Time, Openly LGBT Governor Elected: Oregon's Kate Brown

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks to the crowd of supporters after being elected at the convention center in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday.
Steve Dykes
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks to the crowd of supporters after being elected at the convention center in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday.

For the first time, a U.S. state has elected an openly LGBT governor.

The landmark was reached in Oregon, where the Associated Press projects that Kate Brown has won the gubernatorial election.

Brown was the incumbent in her race — but running for election for the first time.

Shestepped in as governor of Oregon in February 2015, after former Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned over an influence-peddling scandal. She was secretary of state at the time; as Oregon does not have a lieutenant governor, she was first in the line of succession.

"Now, she'll serve the remaining two years of the four-year term Kitzhaber won during the 2014 election," Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Earlier this year, during a graduation speech at Willamette University, Brown told the graduate about the years she spent in the closet, The Associated Press reports. She told the students she worried that she could lose her job if it was discovered she was bisexual.

Brown was outed in the '80s, and has been married to her husband since 1997. Slate reported last year that while it was not her choice to be out, she embraced her identity once it was public.

Brown was not the first LGBT person to serve as a governor — former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey came out as gay in 2004 and resigned months later. But she has now become the first openly LGBT person to win a gubernatorial election.

She spoke to the Washington Blade last month about what her victory would mean.

"You can't be what you can't see," she said. "If I can be a role model for one young person that decides that their life is worth living because there's someone like them in the world, it's worth it."

OPB has more on Brown's tenure so far:

"The state's political scene was roiling from Kitzhaber's abrupt departure amid a cloud of scandal. Brown pushed forward with a legislative agenda that included creating an automatic voter registration system, expanding the state's clean fuels mandate, and implementing a broad transportation funding package. While the first two items passed with mainly Democratic support, the transportation package failed to even come to a vote.

"As an unelected governor, Brown also was faced with guiding the state through a series of unusual and traumatic events, including a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College that left nine victims dead, a 41-day occupation by an armed group at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a searing drought that affected nearly the entire state, and a derailment of an oil train in the Columbia Gorge."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story said Kate Brown stepped in as governor in 2012; the year was actually 2015.
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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