Two Democrats could be first lesbian governors in US history

Split-screen photos of governor candidates Tina kopek with Joe Biden, and Maura Healey

Maura Healey and Tina Kotek are preparing to make history, vying to become the first lesbian governors in US history.

On 8 November, the United States mid-term elections will take place. Among other posts, voters will cast their ballots for governor in 36 states and three territories.

In Massachusetts, Maura Healey, a Democrat who in 2014 became the first openly lesbian elected attorney general in US history, will face off against Trump-endorsed Republican Geoff Diehl.

If Healey wins, she will become the first-ever woman to be governor of Massachusetts.

Healey began her career in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in 2007, serving as chief of the Civil Rights Division and working alongside Mary Bonauto, the lawyer who argued for the right of same-sex couples to marry in the landmark 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v Hodges

Healey has been instrumental to LGBTQ+ rights in the state, spearheading the first successful lawsuit in the US against the anti-LGBTQ+ Defense of Marriage Act.

She is running on a strong LGBTQ+ rights platform, promising that as governor of Massachusetts she will ensure the state adopts gender-neutral markers on more official documents, bans the LGBTQ+ panic defence, eliminates restrictions on LGBTQ+ blood donations, and supports LGBTQ-inclusive education.

Speaking to NBC News, she said: “If I can be someone who represents and also gives others the belief that they can be anything they want to be and do anything they want to do, regardless of race, gender, identity, religion, that’s where I want to be.

“That’s something I take seriously, and I think that’s what other LGBTQ+ leaders do as well – recognising that we’re not just in a vacuum.”

In Oregan, Tina Kotek is another out lesbian running for governor. She could become Oregon’s second queer governor after Kate Brown, who is bisexual, was elected in 2015.

Like Healey, Kotek is no stranger to blazing a trail – in 2013 she became the first openly lesbian speaker of a state House of Representatives in US history, at the same time subverting expectations as a Democratic, lesbian Roman Catholic.

In May this year, Kotek said: “I think God has said, ‘People are who they are. I’ve made them that way. Let’s support and celebrate people in their authentic selves’. That’s what I believe in, and I think that’s what a lot of people believe. I know a lot of Oregon voters believe that.”

While the lesbian Massachusetts candidate is in a strong position, Kotek’s chances of winning are less certain, with the race nail-bitingly close between her and her Republican opponent Christine Drazan.

But on Saturday (14 October), president Joe Biden spoke at a reception for Kotek’s gubernatorial campaign, describing her as an “articulate, tough, committed woman”.

“Oregon is viewed as a progressive state,” he said.

“Oregon is viewed as a state that has always been in the forefront of change – positive change.  And that’s why this race going to matter so much… You’re a state that’s always been ahead of the curve.  Stay ahead of the curve, and elect Tina.”

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