California Assembly Elects First Lesbian Speaker

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The California Assembly Member Toni Atkins was elected as the new Speaker on a unanimous voice vote in Monday’s floor session.

Currently the majority leader, Atkins will be sworn-in at a future date.  She will gradually assume the duties of termed out Speaker John Perez, who will devote much of his time running for State controller.

The vote was a forgone conclusion after the Democratic Caucus, which holds as a super majority in the Assembly, agreed to Atkins nomination in January.  Democrats and Republicans in seconding her nomination praised Atkins for her ability to listen to the concerns of all members.  And gay members took note that she is the first lesbian Speaker in the history of the state.

Perez broke ground in that regard as bay Assembly Speaker.

“The significance of our queen mother speaker passing his scepter down to Ms. Atkins is duly noted globally,” joked Assembly member Tom Ammiano in seconding her nomination.  Ammiano is  a gay lawmaker from San Francisco.

Atkins acknowledged her spouse, Jennifer LeSar, who was a special guest on the floor.  She told reporters that she never thought she would be able attain such a position.

“It’s all surreal,” said Atkins.

Atkins will break tradition after Sacramento Senate Pro Tem  Darrell Steinberg gives up his post to Los Angeles Senator Kevin DeLeon.  Two southern California lawmakers will then lead the legislature. Normally one lawmaker comes from the south and one from the north.  Atkins says that shouldn’t be a concern.

“I’m proud to represent San Diego, but I represent all Californians and I have to keep that in mind,” said Atkins.

She won the job by being able to work with lawmakers of both parties and from different regions. She says she will help her members to their job of representing their constituents.

Atkins is a former San Diego City Council member and former mayor of that city.  She says she’ll continue to work on her long time priorities, affordable housing and services for homeless veterans.

Atkins will take office after she is formally sworn-in at a date yet to be determined.

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