Openly Gay Lawmakers Selected To Lead Chambers
By Jim Malewitz, Staff Writer
Oregon lawmakers are poised to select the first openly lesbian woman to lead a state legislative chamber.
On Thursday, House Democrats nominated Representative Tina Kotek, who is openly gay, to hold the speaker’s gavel. She would oversee a chamber with a new Democrat majority, following two years of power sharing between the parties split 30-30.
The selection puts Kotek in line to become the first openly lesbian lawmaker to lead a chamber in any state, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorses openly gay candidates for office and closely tracks their progress.
The Oregon House will formally vote on January 14.
Kotek is poised to join two other openly gay lawmakers in winning top jobs in state legislatures. Last Tuesday, Washington Democrats picked Senator Ed Murray as the chamber’s president, and a week earlier, Colorado Democrats chose openly gay Representative Mark Ferrandino to lead the House — both of which were firsts in state politics.
Gay rights advocates are hailing the selections as major milestones. They come on the heels of advocates’ historic victories in Maine, Maryland and Washington, where voters approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage. And in Minnesota, same-sex marriage supporters fought back an effort to constitutionally ban the practice.
“This wasn’t incremental progress. This was a breathtaking leap forward,” Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said shortly after Election Day.
Seven state legislatures this year gained their first or only openly gay lawmaker, according to the Fund. Those states included: North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida.