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UPDATED! San Diego’s Toni G. Atkins becomes first gay person to be California’s Acting Governor



SACRAMENTO, California — Today, California will add a footnote to its history books when the Golden State will be headed by its first openly gay governor.

San Diego resident Toni G. Atkins, a Democrat, will be the Acting Governor because:

1. Gov. Jerry Brown is in Mexico on a trade mission and to talk about immigration issues.

2. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is out of state attending Special Olympics.

3. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is in Chicago on business.

And that means the Governor’s Office will now be headed by Atkins, a married lesbian who as the powerful Speaker of the California Assembly is the No. 4 person on the list of people who can temporarily lead the state when the Governor is away.

Until Gov. Brown returns Wednesday night, Atkins will be in charge of keeping California in business. She takes this heavy responsibility with a bit of humor, this morning taking to Twitter to share an important task she must do:

“One of my 1st responsibilities today as #ActingGov was to make sure the #ActingFirstDogs got their morning walk.”

And she posted a picture of her two pooches.

For those keeping score, Atkins becomes only the second gay person to serve as governor of a U.S. state, even if only for a day. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey was the first, and he came out in August 2004 after he got caught cheating on his wife with another man and was forced to resign from office.

Atkins keeps making history: She is the first lesbian to serve as Assembly Speaker; in 2005, she became the first gay person to be Acting Mayor of San Diego following the resignation of sitting mayor; in 2003, she was San Diego’s first lesbian to be Deputy Mayor.


Not long after this article was published, Acting Gov. Toni G. Atkins issued the following statement:

“I recognize that my short time as Acting Governor will probably prove to be uneventful (and I hope it will be uneventful!). But I’m also thinking today about how a young girl who grew up in poverty in Virginia ends up as Speaker and therefore gets the opportunity to be Acting Governor. What that says about our opportunities as Americans and our democracy are profound. And I will continue to spend my time as a legislator in this great state ensuring that all California kids have access to that American Dream – the California Dream – by supporting access to health care, affordable housing and educational opportunities. I wish my parents could see this. Now I know that may sound hokey to many. But honestly, this is what is going through my mind. I feel so grateful. If Governor Brown wants a few more days away I’m here for him!”

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