Kate Brown was officially sworn in as Oregon’s 38th Governor, making her the first openly bisexual governor in the nation.
Brown took office after former Governor John Kitzhaber resigned following allegations that his partner Cylvia Hayes had used her position for personal gain, specifically to win contracts for her consulting business and failed to report income on her taxes. Kitzhaber was as equally well-known for his western ‘business-casual’ apparel as he was for his 36 years of public service, being elected an unprecedented four times to the office of Governor, and initiating the Oregon Health Plan.
Kate Brown, 54, acknowledged Kitzhaber’s accomplishments in her inaugural speech, saying “Governor Kitzhaber dedicated most of his life to serving the people of Oregon. His contributions to our state are well woven into the fabric of our public life.” She continued, “But now, we must restore the public’s trust.”
Her place as the new Governor has earned her notoriety as she is now Oregon’s second female governor (after Barbara Roberts, who served from 1991-1995), and the nation’s first openly bisexual governor.
“[Brown] brings visibility to a part of the LGBT community that is typically rendered invisible” says Janelle Wilson, who is the Coordinator for the Queer Resource Center here at SOU. “It really is phenomenal to see her serving in such a high place in the state legislature.”
Brown is married to Dan Little, whom she referred to as her “rock” in her inaugural speech, and the two of them have two children from Little’s previous marriage. Brown has always been supportive of the LGBT community, such as sponsoring the state’s first domestic partnership legislation, and spearheaded efforts to stop and invalidate local anti-gay ballot measures across the state. Brown was even honored as the 2012 Grand Marshal in the Southern Oregon Pride Festival.
“It is awesome to see someone who is queer in power,” said Adam, lounging on one of the couches in the QRC on campus. Adam paused for a second, then added without hesitation “We need more queer people in power. And more women in power. And more queer women in power.”
Although she is attracting a lot of media attention for her sexuality, she has had a lengthy political career that was often intertwined with her personal life. She first served in the Oregon House of Representatives in 1991, when she was appointed to the seat. She was then elected the seat in 1992, and in 1997 elected to the Oregon State Senate. She became the first woman to serve as the state senate’s majority leader in 2004, and worked as Secretary of the State since 2008. She has worked not only with the LGBT community, but also has worked to make Oregon’s government more transparent, to remove barriers to voter registration, and focused audits on improving education and providing better service to Oregon residents.
In her inaugural speech, she finished on an optimistic and real tone: “It is time once again to set our sights on Oregon’s future, to stretch our wings towards new horizons. Today is nearly half gone; tomorrow awaits, full of promise.” She ended on a refrain that echoed throughout her speech and reflects her attitude toward her gubernatorial position: “Now it’s time to get to work.”