California State Senate Gets First LGBT Leader

California state Sen. Toni Atkins

WTOP in Sacramento reports that openly lesbian California state Sen. Toni Atkins will make history Wednesday when she becomes the first woman and first LGBT to hold the State Senate’s top job.

A former Assembly speaker, Atkins is taking over the post of Senate president pro tem from fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon as the chamber gears up for election season and faces a number of thorny challenges, including a reckoning over sexual misconduct, a loss of the Democratic supermajority and an icy relationship with the state Assembly.

De Leon took control of the Senate in 2014. He’s barred by term limits from seeking re-election and is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

If she can keep the support of her fellow Democrats, Atkins will have an unusually long run in the Senate’s top job; she isn’t term-limited until 2024.

Atkins, who has advanced groundbreaking legislation on health care, LGBT rights and housing, is described by her colleagues as kind, measured and compassionate but steadfast in her commitment to fighting for people and ideas she believes in.

It’s been said before but bears repeating that real change happens on the state and local level of politics. That’s what makes this step forward important.

Atkins is one of eight members of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.

She married her wife Jennifer LeSar in 2008.

Equality California issued this statement:

Senator Toni Atkins is one of the LGBTQ community’s most respected and effective leaders and her upcoming election as the Senate President Pro Tem breaks multiple glass ceilings. Not only will she be the first woman to serve as leader of the California Senate, but Senator Atkins will also be the first LGBTQ person to serve in that role. This follows on her historic career in the Assembly where she became the first lesbian Speaker.

Electing role models like Senator Atkins is important to the LGBTQ community because it sends a clear message to our community across the country, particularly LGBTQ youth, that LGBTQ people can achieve anything. By having a seat at the table, LGBTQ elected officials can speak with their colleagues with authenticity and first-hand experience on issues that affect our community.

(h/t JoeMyGod)