California assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced Thursday that Human Rights Commission member Theresa Sparks will become the first transgendered woman to be honored by the state in its annual Woman of the Year ceremony, which will be held Monday, March 24. Each California assembly member selects one woman, usually from the district that member represents, to be honored at the ceremony, held by the governor in Sacramento.
Sparks was appointed to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission after years of advocacy on behalf of the local community. She served as a founding member of the city's Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force and became the first transgendered woman elected as chair of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club.
"Theresa is intelligent, hardworking, committed, and tenacious in her efforts on behalf of our community," Leno told Advocate.com. "She is a very courageous and hardworking soul and has taught me a great deal about how to be most effective in my own advocacy and legislative work."
Sparks's recognition comes just as California Assembly Bill 196, which would add gender identification to the protected characteristics enumerated in the Fair Employment and Housing Act, leaves the labor and employment committee for debate on the assembly floor. Leno said that by recognizing Sparks as a woman of the year, he might be able to bring a human element to the bill. "I think that by bringing her to the floor on Monday and introducing her to my colleagues, I can put a face on the issue of transgender rights."