By Toni G. Atkins
Every year in June, the state Assembly holds an LGBT Pride ceremony on the Assembly floor. This year, a visit from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama pushed our ceremony to Aug. 8, when we celebrated the formation of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.
California’s LGBT Caucus was the first of its kind in the nation, founded in June 2002 by legislators Sheila Kuehl, Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe. I am currently a proud member of the caucus, along with Assemblymembers Susan Eggman (the caucus chair), Rich Gordon and Evan Low, and Senators Mark Leno, Cathleen Galgiani and Ricardo Lara.
For this year’s ceremony, I had the privilege of honoring Chris Kehoe, my political mentor. I worked on her staff when she was on the San Diego City Council. From there, she went on to serve in both the Assembly and the Senate. It was she who pushed me to run to replace her on the City Council in 2000. I owe my political career to her. I was filled with pride during the ceremony as I watched a video chronicling the history of the LGBT Caucus. If it’s possible to be prouder than I already was about having been the first lesbian Speaker of the Assembly, that video — and the whole ceremony — made me more so.
I stand on the shoulders of those openly LGBT legislators who came before me — they were such brave and effective leaders. They helped shape my approach to leadership and it’s partly to honor them that I have fought as hard as I have for justice and equality for California’s LGBT community.
Around the district: The National Day of Service and Remembrance on Sept. 11 is a day near and dear to all of us who watched as terrorists attacked us in 2001. All Americans are encouraged to pay tribute to the memories of the 2,977 victims and heroes lost that day by volunteering for service projects in their communities. If you would like to get involved, you can find local opportunities in San Diego by visiting 911day.org/volunteer and entering your ZIP code. Many local groups hold events in honor of the 9/11 victims, which included many San Diegans. For instance, the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park will again hold its Patriots Day Blood Drive, at 10 a.m. In another local tradition, on Sept. 10, firefighters will invite the public to help them honor the 403 emergency responders who died in the attacks by taking part in the San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. As always, we will not forget the loss of these precious lives. As everyone knows, firefighting is a difficult, yet rewarding and often-heroic career, and we must remind women that it is a profession available to them. I am happy to report that there soon will be an opportunity to learn more about a career in firefighting. The California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee’s Commission to Recruit Women for the Fire Service will hold one of its annual Firefighter Career Expos in San Diego from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 24, at the Firefighter Candidate Testing Center, 10440 Black Mountain Road in Mira Mesa. Attendees can talk to representatives from departments throughout California, try a physical-ability test, see firefighting equipment up close and enjoy free barbecue. The expo is open to everyone, but there’s a special emphasis on recruiting women and other underrepresented candidates.
—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker Emeritus of the California State Assembly. For more information, visit her website, asmdc.org/members/a78, sign up for her e-newsletter or follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.