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Kate Brown, Oregon, 1992

Kate Brown

Kate Brown has frequently been rated Oregon’s top legislator by constituent interest groups and newspapers. She was married in October 1997. She won the 2008 Primary Election in her run to be Oregon's next Secretary of State.

Katherine “Kate” Brown (D)

Born June 21, 1960
State Senator, District 21
Portland, Oregon
114,000 constituents

Career Overview

Appointed to State House of Representatives November 1991
Elected November 1992
Re-elected 1994
Elected to Senate November 1996
Elected Democratic Senate Leader by fellow Democratic Senators November 1998
Re-elected 2000, 2004
Elected Senate Majority Leader in 2004
Elected Oregon Secretary of State in 2008.
Became Governor of Oregon on February 18, 2015.

Essay by Kate Brown for Out and Elected in the USA

I believe it was during my early 30’s that I figured out who, or what, I am. But it wasn’t until it was written in the Oregonian newspaper that I was bisexual that I had to face the inevitable and let those around me know. Thus began my very public coming out as a bisexual:

  • Coming out to my parents – who flew in from Minnesota “to have a talk.” Their response – “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.”
  • Coming out to my gay friends – who called me half-queer.
  • Coming out to my straight friends – who never thought I could make up my mind about anything anyway.

And, most frighteningly to me:

  • Coming out to my legislative colleagues. At the beginning of the next legislative session sitting in the House lounge, representative Bill Markham, who is over 70 years old, extremely conservative, and a legislator for more than 20 years comes to join me. Over lunch he looks up to say, “Read in the Oregonian a few months ago you were bisexual. Guess that means I still have a chance?!”

Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either.

Editor's Update

Kate Brown was elected Oregon Secretary of State in November 2008.[1]

On February 13, 2015, Governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, announced his pending resignation as the result of a public corruption scandal.[2] Upon Kitzhaber's resignation, Kate Brown succeeded him on February 18, 2015, becoming the first openly bisexual governor of an American state.[3]

After Brown became governor a reporter noted that “OutHistory has one of the first, if only, first-person testimonials about Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown’s experience coming out to friends, family and colleagues as bisexual.” The reporter asked how Brown's essay came to be. On February 21, 2015, Ron Schlittler explained how he created the Kate Brown entry for Out and Elected.

The overall process and motivation for creating Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, is pretty well set out on the OutHistory site, Editor's Introduction and Ron Schlittler's Introduction.

I met with Kate Brown at a one-on-one constituent breakfast in Oregon to take her photograph. I was at the time a field organizer for the national office of PFLAG (Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). As with the other subjects of the project, I requested an essay or interview reflecting what Kate wanted to say about her experience of being "Out and Elected." Kate submitted a personal essay to accompany the photo.

Kate’s case was a bit unique, though, because we knew each other personally.  Responding to the scourge of anti-gay ballot measures in Oregon in the early 1990s I became involved with local and state politics while a student at the University of Oregon. My first job after graduation was as campaign manager, then legislative assistant, to then state senator from Lane County, Pete Sorenson.  

When I went to work at the Oregon State Capitol in 1994, Kate had just won her second election, and was part of what was a pretty impressive but informal lesbian, gay, bisexual caucus of legislators at the time, from both sides of the isle (See: Chuck Carpenter and George Eighmey; also serving at the time, but not featured in Out and ElectedGail Shibley and Cynthia Wooten).  

Because of the experience of the ballot measures, the entire state was highly attuned to things LGB (not so much also the “T” at that time). So it was no surprise when The Oregonian newspaper outed Kate in print, though her identification as bisexual was no secret.

I think Kate's essay for the project reflects her refreshingly concise and disarming candor, sense of humor, and roll-with-the-punches style.  Since those days when she was first elected (by 7 votes!), in the same 1992 election that the notorious Oregon Ballot Meausre 9 was defeated, it has been gratifying to see her advance in state politics, and now see this remarkable ascension to the Governorship.[4]

I am pleased that the state and national media rather widely picked up on Kate's essay because it allowed her story to be told in her own words. Her essay addresses a natural curiosity about her publicly acknowledged sexuality. It helps to set to rest what might have become an undue distraction during a very busy and challenging time for her and the state.

I am also pleased that my research has brought attention to a piece of LGBT history, and to the invaluable and rich resource that is OutHistory. I am glad and proud to have my work presented there. 


  1. "Oregon Blue Book: Secretary of State Kate Brown." See:http://bluebook.state.or.us/state/executive/secretary_of_state/secbio.htm, accessed 6 Mar 2009.
  2. Wikipedia: John Kitzhaber. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kitzhaber
  3. Wikipedia: Kate Brown. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Brown
  4. Wikipedia: Oregon Ballot Measure 9 (1992). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Ballot_Measure_9_(1992).