Kate Brown, Oregon's New Governor, Boosts the 'B' in LGBT Community

By Knickerbocker, Brad | The Christian Science Monitor, February 15, 2015 | Go to article overview

Kate Brown, Oregon's New Governor, Boosts the 'B' in LGBT Community


Knickerbocker, Brad, The Christian Science Monitor


Turmoil in Oregon over Gov. John Kitzhaber's forced resignation under an ethical cloud brings with it a historic national first at the intersection of politics and sexual identity.

Gov. Kitzhaber's replacement - Secretary of State Kate Brown - will be the first openly bisexual governor in US history.

Ten or 20 years ago, that might have been a major point of contention, or perhaps even a scandal of its own. But rapid advances in gay rights, including same-sex marriage, shifting public attitudes (especially among younger Americans), plus the growing number of openly gay and lesbian elected and appointed officials prompts a "no big deal" attitude among most Oregonians. House Speaker Tina Kotek is openly gay.

Ms. Brown, 54, who lives in Portland with her husband of 15 years Dan Little and two stepchildren, has been open about her sexuality throughout her long political career, including years in the state legislature where she served as Senate Majority Leader - the first woman in the state to hold that position.

While gay rights have been expanding at the national and state level, bisexual people - the "B" in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community - have had particular challenges.

Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), says bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

"To the extent that they're out, they may well be more so the victims of scorn because they get it from both gay and straight people," Mr. Sainz told the Associated Press. "Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination."

HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, puts it another way.

"On one hand, there's assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners," she told the AP. "On the other hand, you've got people who say it's not real - it's an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up."

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual - slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.

The news about Brown and her personal life comes as the "T" in the LGBT community - transgender people - are becoming a greater part of the social, political, and legal conversation about human sexuality as well. …

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