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Congratulations to California Assemblywoman Toni Atkins
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 01/22/14
Last updated on: 01/23/14
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Toni Atkins.

Congratulations to Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, an open lesbian who has been chosen to succeed openly gay John A. Pérez as Speaker of the California State Assembly. On January 22, 2014, Pérez announced that the Assembly's Democratic Caucus unanimously chose Atkins as the next Speaker. The Speaker of the Assembly is often regarded as the second most powerful position in California government.

Jeremy White reports in the Sacramento Bee that the announcement ends months of speculation about who would take over the leadership post once Pérez leaves office at the end of 2014.

In remarks following the announcement, Pérez emphasized that not a single member of the 55-member Democratic caucus dissented from the selection of Atkins. "It was unanimous going into the room, it was unanimous coming out of the room," Pérez said. "There was absolute unanimity . . . and excitement about having Ms. Atkins as the next speaker."

A formal vote will come some time in the spring, Pérez said. The timeline for Atkins formally taking over has not been fixed. "It's the work of transition that will dictate the timeline," he said.

Atkins will be the first open lesbian to lead either chamber of the California Legislature. Pérez is the first openly gay man to have led a chamber of the California Legislature.

In addition, Atkins will also be the first lawmaker from San Diego to become Speaker of the Assembly.

A native Virginian who earned a B.A. in political science from Emory and Henry College and later attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Atkins moved to San Diego in 1985.

She was elected to the San Diego City Council in 2000 and re-elected in 2004. In 2005, she served for several months as Interim Mayor of San Diego.

She was first elected to the Assembly in 2010 and re-elected in 2012, when was chosen as Majority Leader of the Democratic Caucus.

She is one of eight members of the California Legislature's LGBT Caucus. Her district includes the highest concentration of glbtq residents in San Diego.

Atkins and her spouse Jennifer LeSar live with their two dogs in the South Park/Golden Hill section of San Diego.

In the video below, from June 26, 2013, Atkins joined Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and others at a State Capitol news conference following the announcement from the Supreme Court of its decision to overturn California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state.

"Today, equality for same sex couples became the law of the land for California and the other twelve states that have chosen marriage equality. It is a great day to be a Californian and a great day to be an American. The Supreme Court has now recognized that the federal government should not block gay and lesbian Americans from committing their lives to the person they love and have that commitment respected by society," said Atkins, who also recalled how deflated she and her spouse felt when Proposition 8 was passed.

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