This isn't going to be too much of a diary, but I saw this story and thought it was worth reporting. Pending final ratification, Democratic Oregon State Representative Tina Kotek will make history in January as the first openly lesbian Oregon House Speaker.
This isn't a surprise--as reported previously, she was widely expected to gain the speakership if Democrats gained control of the House. They did, and she did. Yesterday, Oregon House Democrats officially voted and elected Kotek as their Speaker. It still needs to be ratified in January, but that should just be a formality.
This is significant not only because she is the first openly lesbian leader in the Oregon legislature, but also because she is the first-ever openly lesbian leader in any state legislature. Openly gay legislators will lead either the House or Senate in four other states--California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Washington--the highest number in history. In addition to the marriage equality victories and the election of Tammy Baldwin as the nation's first openly gay U.S. Senator, we're seeing unprecedented gains on the state level, too.
Kotek, who represents Portland in the legislature, told the Associated Press that she didn't set out to break barriers. She is, however, honored to represent the gay community in her capacity as speaker. She also mentioned the impact of her election as Speaker on other LGBT people:
We all look for people out there who look like us. I have had emails and text messages from people who are very excited.As the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee reported here on Daily Kos in May, Kotek has ambitious plans for Oregon:
When asked about her greatest legislative accomplishment, she replied: health care.Best of luck to Speaker Kotek, and major kudos on her election. Good for her, and good for Oregon. And good for the LGBT community. The 2012 elections were very kind to us indeed.
“Improving access to health insurance for children and changing the way we deliver health care to our Medicaid population. I played a key role in the creation of the Healthy Kids Program in 2009, which has allowed us to provide health care to almost every child in Oregon,” she explained. “This is a phenomenal accomplishment, especially during the recession. I also led our caucus in negotiating the successful legislation that will transform the Oregon Health Plan through better coordinated, integrated care that focuses on prevention and promoting health.”
She plans to continue to address these issues as House speaker. She sees the underfunding of Oregon’s education system (pre-school through graduate shcool) and income disparity resulting from a lack of living wage jobs as the biggest issues facing the state.
“Achieving a sustainable prosperity for Oregon will depend on improving our investments in education and focusing economic development efforts to create living wage jobs across the state,” she said.