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Gay man picked to lead Washington state Senate

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- State Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle) has been picked as leader of the Washington state Senate, becoming only the second openly LGBT politician to lead an upper chamber in the U.S.

Murray, 57, was one of the leading supporters of the marriage equality bill that was approved by the state legislature and a public referendum vote last week.

“We have work to do in Olympia – prioritizing education, creating jobs for the middle class, and ensuring Washingtonians have the health care they need. And one of our challenges in a closely divided chamber is to ensure that the Senate is able to fulfill its obligation to govern the state, in tandem with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee and the House. These are not simple challenges, but they are solvable. We can find solutions that work for all of Washington,” Murray said in a statement issued Tuesday night.

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, tipped his hat to Murray.

“We congratulate Sen. Murray for this wonderful recognition of his leadership skills and dedication to the people of Washington. He has proven that openly LGBT Americans have much to offer their communities as leaders and representatives, and his commitment to open and honest public service has set an example for LGBT youth,” Wolfe said in a statement.

In neighboring Oregon, lesbian Tina Kotek> is poised to become Speaker of the House.

If selected as Oregon's Speaker, Kotek would become the fourth gay or lesbian Speaker in the nation. Mark Ferrandino is poised to become the fourth after he was nominated by the Democrat-controlled Colorado House. The others include the first-ever gay Speaker, California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Rhode Island Speaker Gordon Fox.

The first openly gay state Senator leader was Allan Spear of Minnesota, who was president of the Minnesota Senate from 1992 until his retirement in 2000. For history buffs, Spear came out on Dec. 9, 1974, about two years into his term in the Minnesota House, becoming one of the first openly gay politicians in U.S. history. Spear died in 2008 at the age of 71.