Entries from: Oregon

Out lesbian sworn in as Oregon House Speaker

kotek-209x300Tina Kotek (D-Portland) today became the first out lesbian to lead a state legislative chamber in U.S. history when she was sworn in as speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.  Former Governor Barbara Roberts, Oregon’s only female governor, presided over the swearing-in ceremony.

During her first address to the House chamber, Kotek emphasized the importance of inclusion and dialogue: “As our state continues to tackle the task of economic recovery, our focus must be on the priorities that matter most to Oregonians. Oregonians are expecting us to listen well, listen to everyone, and find solutions through challenging, but productive discussions.”

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said the milestone is an important one for the LGBT community. “This is a fantastic moment.  We need more out women leaders to consider public service and add their voices to the public debate.  Outstanding leaders like Speaker Kotek can inspire women and girls to believe they too can serve in elective office, represent their communities, lead their colleagues and live authentic lives,” said Wolfe.

As she took the oath of office, Kotek was joined on stage by her partner, Aimee Wilson.

Photo: Associated Press

Lesbian elected speaker of Oregon House

kotekOregon State Rep. Tina Kotek has been chosen by her peers to become the next speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, marking the first time in U.S. history an out lesbian will lead a state legislative chamber.

Kotek becomes the third out state lawmaker this year to win an election for a top state legislative job.  Colorado state representatives chose Mark Ferrandino, an openly gay Democrat, to be their speaker, and Washington State Sen. Ed Murray won an election to become the next Senate majority leader.

“We all look for people out there who look like us.  I have had e-mails and text messages from people who are very excited,” Kotek said.

Photo:  Associated Press

Oregon AG finds no evidence to charge Portland mayor

Oregon’s attorney general has issued a report in his investigation of Portland Mayor Sam Adams, finding no evidence the mayor violated any state laws in his relationship with Beau Breedlove.  According to a report by Portland’s FOX12:

In the Department of Justice report, Breedlove alleged two incidents of kissing before his 18th birthday, but the DOJ said it was unable to corroborate his account. The report also said Breedlove’s “prior inconsistent statements, financial gain and prior felony conviction for a crime involving deception compromised his credibility as a witness.”

In addition to finding no evidence of illegal sexual contact, Kroger’s report also said there was no evidence Adams committed official misconduct or that he engaged in theft by deception.

During the course of the Department of Justice investigation, 57 people were interviewed. The investigation team also examined phone records, security records, social networking sites, e-mails, text messages and Breedlove’s Blackberry cell phone. In May, Adams also took part in a 3 ½ hour interview with investigators.

Anti-gay group tries to salvage petition against Oregon domestic partnerships

The anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Ariz., argued before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday in an attempt to force a statewide vote on Oregon’s new domestic partnership law.

The court, which will rule within approximately 30 days, will determine whether elections officials were justified in their disqualification of the many of the ADF’s petition signatures. If the court rules in the group’s favor, the matter will not go directly to the ballot — it will be thrown to a lower court.

The Statesman Journal reports:

One couple heard the arguments at the historic Pioneer Courthouse with more than a passing interest.

“This is a case that is not about gay rights,” said Leila Wrathall of Portland. “It is about whether they are going to validate the method which the secretary of state’s office uses to ensure that signatures are valid. We’re hoping that the court will uphold that.”

More than 30 voters sued Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and elections officials from 10 counties, who determined that opponents fell just short of the 55,179 signatures required to call a statewide election.

“They didn’t get enough signatures — that’s the point,” said Cathy Travis, Wrathall’s partner. “That’s very encouraging in terms of Oregon and gay rights, although that’s not what this argument was about. But it’s nice to know there is a process. You cannot fall short of signatures, then force everyone to spend a lot of money to determine whether we should get the rights we deserve.”

Adams: Being outed was one of the best things to ever happen to me

adamsgp.jpgPortland City Commissioner Sam Adams says that as a young gay person, he never would have imagined that he would be elected mayor.

“Hopefully, it’s a sign that we’ve broken through another glass ceiling,” Adams said. “We still have other glass ceilings to go, but hopefully people are getting encouragement to pursue their dreams.”

Adams spoke to The Washington Blade recently after becoming the city’s mayor-elect in his election last month. The election makes him the first openly gay mayor of a top 30 U.S. city.

The article discusses Adams’ experience coming out to his family and community in his home state of Montana. The Blade reports:

The experiences spurred Adams to conceal details of his personal life when he left college to work in politics.

“I just didn’t talk about my private life,” he said. “I really feared if I came out early in my career, I would be pigeon-holed as sort of the gay guy.”

During this time, Adams said, he maintained a relationship with a “very understanding” partner, but stayed “in the closet” until 1995, when a reporter outed him.

The article made for some awkwardness in the office, Adams said, but benefited him in the long run.

“It was one of the best things that could have happened to me,” he said. “I didn’t have to go through that torturous process of sitting people down and saying, ‘I’m gay.’”

He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2002 and was elected to the Portland City Council in 2004.

Specializing in transportation and environmental issues, Adams found Portlanders were more interested in discussing their broken streets than his sexual orientation.

“Potholes aren’t gay potholes or straight potholes,” he said. “They’re just potholes.”

Adams said that public attitude held during his mayoral campaign this spring and helped him avoid being labeled as the gay candidate or having to frequently address his sexual orientation.

“It did not play a significant role — and that’s the way it should be,” he said. “I’m a public servant who’s gay. I’m not a gay public servant.”

That doesn’t mean Adams avoids championing gay issues. He said he’s proud to have helped pass Portland’s “equal benefits ordinance,” which requires contractors that offer spousal benefits to married couples to offer the same benefits to domestic partners.

“I’m a strong advocate for LGBT civil rights issues,” he said. “But at the same time, I want people to treat me in the same way that they treat a heterosexual person or a bisexual person or a transgender person. And I treat them the same way.”