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Maura Healey wins Massachusetts governor's race, NBC News projects, as the first lesbian elected to lead a state

Healey will follow two other out-LGBTQ Democrats elected to lead their states: Oregon’s Kate Brown and Colorado’s Jared Polis.

Democrat Maura Healey is the projected winner of Massachusetts' gubernatorial race, defeating Republican Geoff Diehl and making history as the first out lesbian to be elected governor, NBC News projected.

Healey is the state's attorney general, and Diehl is a former state representative who co-chaired former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in Massachusetts.

Addressing her supporters at a victory rally in Boston on Tuesday evening, Healey dedicated her win to "every little girl and every young LGBTQ person out there."

"I hope tonight shows you that you can be whatever, whoever you want to be," she said to a roaring crowd. "And nothing and no one can ever get in your way except your own imagination, and that's not going to happen."

Healey's win was a long-awaited victory for LGBTQ advocates who have been trying to elect a lesbian to the highest office in state government for decades.

Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which helps queer candidates get elected to public office, said Healey’s historic win will help send a message that “LGBTQ people have a place in American society and can become respected public leaders.”

“We are confident that under Maura’s leadership, Massachusetts will reach new heights as one of the most inclusive states in the country,” Parker said in a statement. 

Healey will follow two other out LGBTQ Democrats who have been elected to lead their states: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who is bisexual, became the first openly LGBTQ person to be elected governor in 2015, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor in 2018. (Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey was not out when he was elected to office in 2001; he came out as gay in his 2004 resignation speech.)

One other LGBTQ Democrat, out lesbian Tina Kotek, could join Healey in her history-making feat. Kotek is in a competitive three-way gubernatorial race in Oregon.

Healey’s victory with running mate Kim Driscoll will also mark the first time in U.S. history that women will serve as both governor and lieutenant governor of a state, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the projected winner of Arkansas' gubernatorial race, is poised to join Healey in this historic feat, as the two candidates in Arkansas' lieutenant governor's race are both women.

Healey is no stranger to shattering glass ceilings for LGBTQ Americans.

In 2009, Healey led the country’s first successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages. And in 2014, she broke barriers again, becoming the country’s first out lesbian to be elected state attorney general.

Her campaign website says Healey, who was born in Maryland, was born “over” Massachusetts — her longtime Massachusetts family placed soil from the state underneath her delivery bed before her birth. Healey grew up as the oldest of five siblings in an old farmhouse in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. 

She planted her seeds in the state when she attended Harvard College, where she captained the women’s basketball team. After having played professional basketball in Austria for several years, she returned to Massachusetts to attend Northeastern University School of Law. 

Several years after she graduated, Healey began her life in public service working for the office she would one day lead, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office. During that time, she had the opportunity to work with someone she described in a previous interview as one of her lesbian role models: lawyer and civil rights advocate Mary Bonauto, who is best known for having argued on behalf of same-sex couples in the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S.

Bonauto said in a statement to NBC News on Tuesday evening that Healey "will be a great leader for Massachusetts."

"She cares about and gets the inequities for those seen as outsiders, which is something she’s had the grit and courage to deal with as an out lesbian woman, and she has a vast range of skills and smarts, including a moral compass about the common good and our common humanity, that makes her a leader for everyone," Bonauto said. "Massachusetts and our nation are lucky to have her in this position."

In a previous interview, Healey said that if she were elected she would use her bully pulpit to fight back against the historic number of anti-LGBTQ bills circulating in state legislatures and the seemingly pervasive threats of violence the community has been subjected to this year. 

This summer, at least two of those threats were directed at the LGBTQ community in Boston. An affordable housing project for LGBTQ seniors was vandalized with homophobic and threatening graffiti in July, and in August, Boston’s Children’s Hospital made national headlines when it received a bomb threat for providing gender-affirming care to transgender youths. 

“What we’re seeing is really sad, and it’s unacceptable. And unfortunately, it’s a reflection of the hate and vision that’s out there and tearing this country apart,” Healey said in a previous interview. “In Massachusetts, we’re going to stand up to threats and intimidation — I’ve done that as attorney general, and I will do that as governor.”

She added, “My message to the LGBTQ community here is that I want people to know that they are valued and loved, and we will work hard to protect their rights.”

Addressing her supporters Tuesday night, Healey said she will cut taxes, invest in education and job training, fix roads and bridges and "take on the climate crisis." She added that "as long as I'm governor, women will always have the freedom to control their own bodies and our state will provide access to safe, legal abortion."

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