The Slatest

Oregon’s Governor Learns His Partner, the State’s First Lady, Had a Secret Marriage

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.

REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

When Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber asked Cylvia Hayes, the state’s first lady, to marry him, she said yes. It turns out, there’s probably a bit more she should have said to her husband-to-be. On Wednesday, Oregon weekly the Willamette Week revealed that the democratic governor’s fiancée had kept a four-year marriage a secret from him—and, it appears, just about everyone else. That’s never an easy conversation and Hayes, who had told Kitzhaber of two of her previous marriages, chose not to have it, telling the paper “the governor did not know about this third marriage until [Tuesday] afternoon.”

Here’s more from the Willamette Week:

[M]arriage records show, Hayes married a teenage Ethiopian immigrant [Abraham B. Abraham] 11 years younger than she. It’s not clear why Hayes entered into the marriage and why she has kept it secret. However, public records raise questions about whether the marriage was legitimate or whether it was a way to help the young man with his immigration status.

Obtaining residency or citizenship for an immigrant through marriage to a legal resident is often called a “green card marriage.” It is a federal crime for both participants if it is determined that the marriage is a sham and executed solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. It’s illegal whether or not the U.S. citizen is paid to take part in the marriage.

When she married Abraham, Hayes was three weeks shy of her 30th birthday. Court records show she had divorced her second husband three months earlier… Hayes and Abraham married on July 19, 1997. The couple filed for divorce four years and three months later.

USA Today notes: “How often someone has been married and divorced is not your typical headline fodder. Except Kitzhaber, a Democrat, is running for re-election and he’s been taking heat from his GOP rival for Hayes’ consulting work for organizations that want to influence state policy.”