First Lesbian Assembly Speaker Plans SF Visit
The first out lesbian lawmaker to hold the powerful California Assembly speaker position plans to be in San Francisco to celebrate Pride this year.
Assembly Speaker-elect Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) told the Bay Area Reporter that she has accepted an offer to speak during the annual Alice B. Toklas Pride breakfast, which will take place Sunday, June 29.
"I would love to see the Pride parade in San Francisco. Every year I always march in the San Diego Pride parade and never get to see it," Atkins told the B.A.R. while attending a reception in her honor last week in downtown Oakland.
The likelihood, though, is Atkins will end up marching in the San Francisco Pride parade either with Alice’s contingent or at the invitation of a local politician. And Audrey Joseph , who manages Pride’s main stage line-up, is hopeful Atkins will accept an invite to address the crowd this year.
If Atkins does, it would mark the first time an out Assembly speaker has addressed the city’s Pride festival. Outgoing gay Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) never participated in the Bay Area’s largest LGBT event during his four-year tenure.
His office never accepted Joseph’s invites to speak from Pride’s main stage, and though he had been scheduled to address Alice’s Pride breakfast in 2010, Perez was unable to attend the event.
Atkins will take her oath of office as the state’s 69th Assembly speaker and third woman to hold the post this Monday, May 12, shortly after 1 p.m. in the Assembly chambers inside the state Capitol in Sacramento. In addition to being the first lesbian speaker in the state’s history, Atkins will also be the first from San Diego.
"I am also the first Appalachian speaker," Atkins, 51, who grew up poor in southwestern Virginia, told those gathered at the East Bay reception for her hosted at Clear Channel Outdoor’s offices.
A similar pre-swearing-in event was held in the same location for Perez in 2010. Reprising her role as a co-host was Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who helped elect both Perez and Atkins to the speakership.
"He has been an incredible speaker and we will have a new incredible speaker," said Skinner, whose lesbian daughter, Sirona Skinner Nixon, will be marrying her longtime partner, Sinead O’Rourke class=st>, this summer.
Atkins, who is married to her spouse, Jennifer LeSar , told the B.A.R. that, in terms of the LGBT community, a prime focus for her as speaker will be transgender issues.
"We still have a lot of work to do for our transgender community," said Atkins, who is sponsoring Assembly Bill 1577, the Respect After Death Act, to ensure transgender people have their authentic gender identity reflected on their death certificates.
LGBT data collection is another top priority for Atkins, as without such information it is difficult to target funding to address health disparities among LGBT people.