California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins became the Golden State’s first openly gay governor on Wednesday – for a period of roughly nine hours.
Due to the travel schedules of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the duties of the state’s chief executive office have fallen to Atkins, who happens to be a lesbian. Though her term as acting governor expires when Brown returns Wednesday night from Mexico, Atkins said she was grateful for her Cinderella moment.
“I wish my parents could see this,” Atkins said in a statement. “Now I know that may sound hokey to many. But honestly, this is what is going through my mind. I feel so grateful. If Gov. Brown wants a few more days away I’m here for him!”
Atkins is only the second openly gay governor in the U.S., following former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey. In 2004, McGreevey – then married to a woman – came out after admitting to an extramarital affair with a male staffer. He resigned shortly thereafter.
No openly gay person has ever been elected governor. But Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud stands a chance at breaking that barrier if he successfully unseats Maine’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage next fall.sho