Election 2024

Out lesbian Tina Kotek wins election as Oregon governor

Tina Kotek
Tina Kotek Photo: Friends of Tina Kotek

Oregonian Tina Kotek (D) has made history as one of the first out lesbian governors in the United States. Maura Healey’s victory in Massachusetts was called earlier and the two now share the trailblazing title.

Kotek was the longest-serving House speaker in Oregon history and the first to be an out lesbian. She used her position to secure greater LGBTQ rights and to help manage the state’s other environmental and societal challenges.

During her 16 years serving in the state house, Kotek helped raise Oregon’s minimum wage, enact a new business tax to raise about $1 billion annually for schools, pass new gun controls, lower carbon emissions and protect abortion access. She also criticized the state’s lack of police and ongoing delays in addressing homelessness.

Kotek has also worked as a public policy advocate for the Oregon Food Bank, policy director of Children First for Oregon, co-chair of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon, and co-chair of the Governor’s Medicaid Advisory Committee.

In a 2021 conversation with LGBTQ Nation about her potential to make gubernatorial history, Kotek said, “It’s an honor and frankly a privilege to be a trailblazer in this regard. I think for me it comes down to what message it sends to young people… It is still hard out there.”

“Transgender individuals are being murdered, kids are still being thrown out of the house when they come out to their parents. It is absolutely essential to see out political leaders pushing to break down barriers because it sends a message to our young folks that it is going to be okay.”

She said that as governor, her top priorities include increasing access to housing and behavioral health services, as well as continued aggressive work on climate action.

Portland publication Willamette Week once described Kotek as having “earned a reputation among both friends and enemies for passing bills—with or without consensus.”
“Public service for me, it’s a calling,” she told LGBTQ Nation. “It’s about helping people. I’m not in it for the glamour. I’m in it to improve people’s lives…That’s the only thing that gets me up in the morning to do this work.”

Kotek has a wife, Aimee, and they live in North Portland with their two dogs.

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