California: Atkins Takes Top Legislative Spot As First Lesbian Speaker
In a triumphant homecoming on Friday, openly lesbian California state assemblywoman Toni Atkins trumpeted the virtues of her adopted hometown during a ceremonial swearing, making her the state's first San Diegan and first lesbian to hold the office of Speaker of the Assembly.
Atkins is the second LGBT person to hold the office of speaker, after John Pérez of Los Angeles stepped down from his position to run for state controller. Atkins is now fourth in line to the Office of Governor of the most populous U.S. state, but she emphasizes to the fact that she is the first San Diegan to be elected to the post.
"It's what we know in San Diego," Atkins told The Advocate. "We've passed that barrier [of LGBT politicianss being elected to public office] long ago. We have so many members of the LGBT community that represent our community and our city. I don't think we thought that much of it."
Yet none present at the event could deny the weight of the occasion as three lesbians — Atkins, her spouse, Jennifer LeSar and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis — stood at a lectern bearing the Great Seal of the State of California, while Dumanis administered the oath of office to the newly minted speaker.
Other LGBT elected officials on stage during the inauguration ceremony and who gave remarks complimenting Atkins for her "reputation for having high integrity, great vision and an unmatched work ethic" were San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria and State Senator Chris Kehoe.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Assembly Speaker John Pérez, and Dr. Shirly Weber (also an assemblywoman from San Diego) gave moving testimonials about Atkins service in and out of public office during the ceremony.
For video and photos from the event, check the next page...
California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (foreground, left) with spouse, Jennifer LeSar (background, left) being sworn in by San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis (right).
Atkins with former speaker' John Pérez and State Senator Christine Kehoe.