Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Politics: 5 State Houses Have LGBT Heads

Tina Kotek, 46, will become the first lesbian to head a
 state legislative body in the United States
As a result of the elections in blue states in which Democrats made significant gains, opportunities have opened up for openly LGBT people in state legislatures to assume historic leaderships positions. Before the election, Gordon Fox of Rhode Island and John Perez of California were the only openly LGBT heads of state legislative bodies.

Since then Mark Ferrandino of Colorado, Tina Kotek of Oregon and Ed Murray of Washington have all been selected by their peers to lead the respective caucuses of their state legislative bodies. Ferrandino was selected to become the first openly gay Speaker of the Colorado House, Murray was selected to become the first openly gay Majority Leader of the Washington State Senate and Kotek became the first lesbian to head a legislative body, the Oregon house.

Local television station KATU reports:
Kotek said she didn't set out to break barriers but is honored to represent the gay community. It's important for the gay community to have role models in leadership positions, she said.

"We all look for people out there who look like us," she said.

"I have had emails and text messages from people who are very excited," Kotek said. "I think any time you have a 'first' it's an important thing for the community."

Kotek has represented a liberal district in the heart of Portland since 2007. She became the No. 2 leader in the Oregon House in 2011 after convincing her Democratic colleagues to oust her predecessor following a legislative session that left many of them frustrated by Republican successes. She oversaw campaign efforts that helped her party pick up four House seats and grab the majority last week.

Kotek ran unopposed for speaker, and her colleagues selected her for the job in a closed-door meeting Thursday evening. She won't formally take over as speaker until the new Legislature convenes in January.
"Now the real work begins," Kotek said in a statement after the vote. "Oregon continues to face many serious challenges, and the public is counting on us to tackle them head on." 
More LGBT history made in 2012!

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