News (USA)

California assembly nominates first openly gay speaker

Assemblyman John Pérez, an openly gay Latino Democrat from Los Angeles, made history Thursday when he was unanimously chosen by the California Assembly’s Democratic Caucus as the lower house’s leader, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

John Perez
John Perez

Pérez, a freshman lawmaker who is expected to be formally voted in as the 68th Assembly Speaker in January, will become the body’s first openly gay leader in California history.

The Los Angeles-raised, University of California Berkeley graduate will inherit a mountain of challenges, in particular the state’s staggering $20.7 billion deficit.

Advocates for the gay community immediately praised Pérez’s election, calling it a historic moment for not just the state but for the nation.

Equality California director Geoff Kors – whose group fights for gay rights – noted the significance of a gay, Latino man rising to a position of power so quickly.

Kors said the visibility of the speaker coupled with his penchant for building coalitions could have wide-ranging impacts on civil rights in the state.

“To have an openly gay Latino heading the largest legislative body, that represents the most people in the country, in and of itself is going to have a significant impact on advancing LGBT rights,” said Kors.

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