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Perez OKed as First Gay Assembly Speaker in Calif

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The California assembly officially selected gay member John Perez its next speaker in a party-line vote.

Democrats approved Perez, of Los Angeles, with a 48-26 vote against Republican challenger Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo. According to the Los Angeles Times, it's the first time a speakership has been contested in a floor vote since the 1998 election of labor leader and current Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Perez's cousin.

He will be the first openly gay assembly speaker in the state's history.

San Francisco assembly member Tom Ammiano, a member of the LGBT Caucus, said that there were some undertones of homophobia from his colleagues on the right side of the aisle.

"As a fellow member of the LGBT caucus, I know I speak for the community when I say what a significant day this is, to live long enough to see this ascension," Ammiano said. "Democracy is not always pretty -- it's pretty messy sometimes, but it works. John will be subject to scrutiny that would make another person uncomfortable. But he knows who he is ... and he has a great sense of irony and humor -- and you need that in your armament to be speaker. I can't tell how thrilled I am to second nomination John A. Perez. This is a real mitzvah."

Perez will be limited to three two-year terms, as California passed term limits in 1990. He follows outgoing speaker Karen Bass, also a Los Angeles Democrat, who was the first black woman to lead either house of the California legislature.

Perez is expected to be sworn into office within the next month, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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