Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown was sworn in as governor on Wednesday morning, making her the first openly bisexual governor in American history. The nation has yet to elect an openly bisexual governor — or an openly LGBT governor. Brown’s rise brings the number of women running states to a grand total of … six.
When it became public knowledge that Brown was bisexual, she had to deal with less than understanding reactions from her family and colleagues. She wrote an essay for the “Out and Elected in the USA” project that mentioned the reaction of former state Representative Bill Markham, who was “over 70 years old, extremely conservative, and a legislator for more than 20 years.”
Over lunch he looks up to say, “Read in the Oregonian a few months ago you were bisexual. Guess that means I still have a chance?!”
Brown is taking over after the resignation of Governor John Kitzhaber. A scandal involving his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, and the potential benefits her environmental consulting firm reaped from ties to the Kitzhaber administration led to the unexpected end of the governor’s unprecedented fourth term. The New York Times said the couple was united by “a shared passion for a low-carbon energy future,” before mentioning the “tawdrier elements” of the downfall, which include accepting “$5,000 to marry an Ethiopian immigrant so he could retain residency and pursue a college education in the United States” and planning an illegal marijuana farm. The Times notes that these revelations “do not appear to have significant legal ramifications, and Mr. Kitzhaber sailed to re-election last fall.”
Last Thursday, Brown released a statement noting that “this is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.” Kitzhaber maintains his innocence and stressed his accomplishments when announcing his resignation, which took place after a month of intense coverage of possible corruption in his administration and the sanding away of his supporters. Federal and state investigations will continue despite his departure from government.