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Congratulations to Oregon Representative Tina Kotek on Her Election as Speaker of the House
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/16/12
Last updated on: 11/16/12
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Speaker-elect Tina Kotek.

Following substantial gains in the November 6, 2012 election, the Democratic Party attained the majority in Oregon's House of Representatives. On November 15, 2012, the Democratic caucus tapped Representative Tina Kotek of Portland to become Speaker of the House in the new legislative session beginning in January 2013. The selection makes Kotek the first openly lesbian legislator to lead a state legislative chamber.

The only openly gay member currently serving in the Oregon legislature, Kotek said she did not set out to break barriers but is honored to represent the gay community.

"We all look for people out there who look like us," she said. "I have had emails and text messages from people who are very excited."

Before her election to the legislature in 2006, Kotek was the policy director for the non-profit advocacy organization Children First for Oregon. Prior to joining Children First, she was a public policy advocate for the Oregon Food Bank. Recognized for her expertise on children's health insurance issues, she was appointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski to serve as the co-chair of the Governor's Medicaid Advisory Committee from late 2005 through 2006.

In the House of Representatives, Kotek represents a liberal district in the heart of Portland. During her first session in 2007, she was the only freshman legislator to chair a committee, the House Subcommittee on Health Policy.

In that session, she also helped pass two pieces of landmark legislation that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and created domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

In the last session, she was selected to lead the Democratic caucus in an evenly divided House. She also served on the Ways and Means Committee and co-chaired the subcommittee on Human Services.

As leader of the Democratic caucus, she oversaw campaign efforts that helped her party gain a 34 to 26 majority in the November 6 election.

Kotek, who holds a B.S. in religious studies from the University of Oregon and an M.A. in international studies from the University of Washington, lives in the Kenton neighborhood of North Portland with her partner Aimee Wilson and their dogs Maya and Rudy.

When legislatures convene in January, openly gay and lesbian leaders will control the House or Senate in five states: California, Rhode Island, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group that supports the election of glbtq candidates, said in response to the news of Kotek's elevation to Speaker: "For many years, we were building a bench of openly gay officials who could step into those roles, and now we're seeing that around the country."

In the video below, from January 30, 2012, Representative Kotek joined caregivers, community members and workers to support Portland's low-wage workers.

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