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In a California First, Lesbian Toni Atkins Signs Bills Into Law as Acting Governor

In a California First, Lesbian Toni Atkins Signs Bills Into Law as Acting Governor

Toni Atkins

Atkins took the action when both the governor and lieutenant governor were out of state.

In a first for LGBTQ+ people in California, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins has signed bills into law while serving as the state’s acting governor.

Atkins, who is a lesbian, is “the first woman and first openly LGBTQ person serving as acting governor to sign bills into law while doing so” in California, according to The Bay Area Reporter.

Atkins took the action last Thursday, when both Gov. Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis were out of the state. She signed three bills: Assembly Bill 354, updating membership on the Sacramento Regional Transit District board of directors; AB 410, upgrading Braille signage on motorized scooters and other mobility devices; and AB 588, dealing with membership on the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency board.

“These bills impact public transit, shared mobility devices, & local water management will continue our efforts to protect CA & enhance our communities,” Atkins tweeted.

“I’m thrilled to step into the governor’s shoes, though I have better shoes than him,” Atkins said during the signing ceremony, the Reporter notes. Her wife, Jennifer LeSar, joined her at the ceremony.

Atkins had served as acting governor for a few hours in 2014, making her the state’s first LGBTQ+ person doing so, but she signed no bills then.

The senator, who represents a San Diego district, has a history of firsts. In 2014, she became the first lesbian and second out LGBTQ+ person to be speaker of the California Assembly; John Pérez, a gay man, had held the post previously. In 2018, when she was named president pro tempore of the Senate, she was the first woman and first out LGBTQ+ person in that position.

She will leave the Senate at the end of 2024 due to term limits, and she has set up a campaign account for a run for lieutenant governor then, when Kounalakis will also be term-limited. Kounalakis plans to run for governor.

While serving as acting governor last week, Atkins deflected questions about whether she might run for governor instead of the number 2 post. “That’s a question for another day. … I’m going to keep options open,” she told journalists, according to the Reporter.

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