The Buzz: Atkins says California has more to do to advance gay rights

June 17, 2014 

After being sworn in as Assembly speaker, Toni Atkins kisses her spouse, Jennifer LeSar, left. Atkins said Tuesday gay people have not yet attained full equality in California.


  • Bill watch

    The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill toughening penalties for juveniles who commit sex crimes, dubbed “Audrie’s Law” after a 15-year-old assault victim who committed suicide, but the measure stalled Tuesday in the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, oppose the bill, Senate Bill 838, as a major change in juvenile criminal law. The bill’s author, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, reluctantly agreed to postpone a committee vote until next week.

    – Dan Walters

Assembly leader sees gains for gays

The new Assembly leader may have kissed her spouse on the Assembly floor after being sworn in as one of the state’s most powerful politicians, but gay people have not yet attained full equality in California, Speaker Toni Atkins said Tuesday.

“Even in California, there are places and times and ways that I probably wouldn’t feel very comfortable taking Jennifer’s hand. So we still have work to do,” Atkins said to a group of women lobbyists, lawyers and other Capitol power brokers at the She Shares conversation.

Atkins talked about her upbringing in a poor family in Virginia and touched on her experience of coming out in her late teens. She said she found it easier to be openly gay after moving to San Diego.

Now that she’s risen to power, her hometown is taking notice. Atkins pointed to an article about her in the Roanoke Times that included a picture of her kissing her spouse, Jennifer LeSar, on the day she was sworn in.

“For that picture to be in the paper in Virginia is important because it gives permission. The speaker of the California state Assembly can be a lesbian, and it’s OK ... . But it takes a lot of those actions,” Atkins said.

– Laurel Rosenhall

Worth repeating

“He’s mastered inner discord and therefore can master the outer discord.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, praising the quirky California Democratic Party Chairman, John Burton.

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