US elections: Who is Maura Healey, the first openly lesbian governor in US history?

A photo of Democrat Maura Healey standing in front of the American flag as she talks into a microphone during her acceptance speech

Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey has made history by becoming the first openly lesbian person to be elected governor in US history.

The Democrat, who has been the state’s attorney general since 2014, defeated Trump-backed Republican Geoff Diehl comfortably with a campaign that focused on LGBTQ+ and abortion rights, affordable housing and better healthcare. 

Her historic win saw her flip the governor’s office to Democrats after eight years of Republican control under governor Charlie Baker, who didn’t participate in the running to be re-elected. 

Aiming to build an economy in which “everyone can thrive”, Healey, who is also the first woman to be elected governor in Massachusetts, used her campaign to pedal her agenda of wanting to create affordable houses, pathways to homeownership, invest in public transport and create a system of affordable universal childcare.

Maura Healey: ‘I am proud of who I am’

The 51-year-old, who is proudly a lesbian, is determined to use her new role to champion LGBTQ+ rights.

In order to do this she hopes to adopt gender-neutral markers on more official documents, support LGBTQ+ education being taught in schools, ban the archaic LGBTQ+ panic defence, and streamline the process of co-parent adoption, to name a few initiatives.

Maura Healey previously led the state’s successful challenge of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that allowed states to deny rights to same-sex married couples.

“I am proud of who I am,” Healey told WBUR.

“Kids need to understand and believe that they are loved, they are seen and that they can be whoever they are.”

Safe and legal abortion

During her successful midterms campaign, Maura Healey promised “access to safe and legal abortion in Massachusetts” following the supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe V Wade.

As attorney general Healey has been active in joining with other states to fight new restrictions on abortion across the US, she also pledged she will never enforce a ban on abortion in her state.

Healey aims to see reproductive freedom protected in Massachusetts and she has already defended Massachusetts’ Buffer Zone Law to protect patients receiving abortion care. 

“I’m going to do everything I can to protect the right to abortion and also to protect the rights of LGBTQ community members,” she told WBUR.

The climate crisis is also an issue Healey sees as a top priority and she aims to implement an extreme heat action plan to build community resilience to the expected increase in heatwaves.

Part of the action plan would include large-scale tree planting, training for local health officials and cooling schools. 

Maura Healey also pledged to address the affordability of healthcare health services and racial-ethnic disparities in the system.

Transportation is another key focus for Healey who has already championed better travel and returned $3.5 million back to residents through cases related to getting consumer refunds and compensation related to care issues. 

She also filed legislation to strengthen protections for car buyers, and her groundbreaking settlement with Volkswagen ensured thousands of Massachusetts residents received up to $10,000, in addition to compensation for their faulty cars. 

Impressive feats

Throughout her time as the state’s top law enforcement officer Maura Healey has done some impressive work, including taking on powerful institutions on behalf of the state’s residents and protecting student borrowers and homeowners from predatory lenders. 

In 2019 Healey sued Exxon Mobil for lying about climate change, she then held the Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma, accountable for their role in fuelling the opioid epidemic. 

Further feats include making the attorney general’s office the first statewide office to implement paid leave for families, and the introduction of its first-ever community engagement division.