Kate Brown Set to Become First Bisexual Governor

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Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, the first openly bisexual in the country to hold a statewide elected office, is set to become Oregon’s 37th governor, thus becoming the first openly bisexual Governor in the United States.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has just announced his resignation Friday, February 13th. Since Oregon does not have a Lieutenant Governor as many states do, the next official in line to replace the Governor and complete his term as the Secretary of State.

It appeared as if Governor John Kitzhaber decided to resign on Tuesday, Feb. 10th, but then changed his mind. The Democratic governor, who is now in a historic fourth term, is now the subject of a criminal investigation by Oregon’s Attorney General. The allegations focus on the fourth-term Democrat governor and his fiancé, Cylvia Hayes, misuse of the authority of the governor’s office to further Hayes’ consulting practice. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission has already opened an investigation into Hayes’ work, and she has hired a criminal defense attorney.

On Tuesday, February 12, 2015, Secretary of State Kate Brown issued this statement:

Late Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from the Governor while I was in Washington, DC at a Secretaries of State conference. He asked me to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone.

I got on a plane yesterday morning and arrived at 3:40 in the afternoon. I was escorted directly into a meeting with the Governor. It was a brief meeting. He asked me why I came back early from Washington, DC, which I found strange. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. The Governor told me he was not resigning, after which, he began a discussion about transition.

This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.

I informed the Governor that I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign. Right now I am focused on doing my job for the people of Oregon.

Kate Brown, 54, was born in Spain where her father was serving in the United States Air Force. She grew up in Minnesota. She earned a B.A. in Environmental Conservation and Women’s Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a law degree from Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College.

She has taught at Portland State University and has practiced family and juvenile law. She was a family attorney with the Juvenile Rights Project, in Portland, providing legal services to children and families with both defense and advocacy programs.

She began her political career in 1991 when she was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives. She was elected to a second term and then to the State Senate in 1996. Two years later, she was elected Senate Democratic Leader. In 2004, she became the first woman to serve as Oregon’s State Senate Majority Leader.

In 2007, she gave up her seat in the Oregon State Senate to run for Oregon Secretary of State. She won the office in 2008 and was reelected in 2012.

Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s largest advocacy, education, and political organization working to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has awarded Brown a “Profiles in Courage” Award.

Kate Brown lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two stepsons, Dylan and Jessie.

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About Author

Denise Penn

Denise Penn is a Southern California-based journalist who has covered issues for the LGBT and HIV-affected community for nearly two decades. While an investigative reporter for the Blade Newsmagazine, her coverage of hate crimes became part of Congressional records. She served as News Editor for the Lesbian News and has contributed to In Los Angeles Magazine, EDGE, and many others. She is also a clinical social worker and brings that perspective to her articles. She produced and hosted an award-winning community television program in Long Beach, California for 12 years.

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