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LGBTQ Lawmakers Share Personal And Professional Milestones

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

The path to marriage equality was paved with LGBT civil rights legislation large and small. In 2015, Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler spoke with three current and former LGBT lawmakers about their journey in public service. 

Former Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco and Assemblymember Susan Eggman of Stockton shared their personal stories and the legislative accomplishments of the LGBT Caucus. 

“When I came out [in 1969], it was to announce to the world that I was a ‘mentally ill outlaw.’ The American Psychiatric Association had not yet dropped [‘homosexuality’] from its list of mental illnesses. And even here in California, it was still a felony for adults of the same gender to have consensual relations,” says former Senator Leno.

Winning the right to care for her family without legal hurdles meant everything to Assemblymember Eggman.

“My partner's family is very Republican, very conservative, and very Pentecostal. And when we talked about who would raise this child [of a dying family member], they looked to nobody but us as the people who were the most stable, who were the most able to provide a loving home,” says Assemblymember Eggman.

Former Republican Senator Roy Ashburn recounted the DUI arrest that led to him coming out after 14 years in the Legislature, despite a voting record against LGBT civil rights bills.

“On a personal level life is much better. It's been a big transformation for me, a big change. There's a calm and a peacefulness and a serenity that comes in being truthful with yourself,” says former Senator Ashburn.

Since the first time this interview aired, Toni Atkins of San Diego became the first member of the LGBT Caucus to lead both chambers as the Assembly Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore. And former Senator Ricardo Lara of Los Angeles became the first openly gay lawmaker to hold statewide office as Insurance Commissioner.

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