Gloria Nieto

Our world got better, way better, this week

Filed By Gloria Nieto | March 05, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: California Assembly, John Perez, Latino, LGBT elected officials

The world has significantly changed this week for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. Some significant events to note:

  • Wedding licenses were issued to same sex couples in Washington D.C.
  • Mexico City allowed same sex marriages to begin there.
  • John Perez was sworn in as Speaker of the California State Assembly, the first openly gay person to occupy this top of the food chain position not only in California but in the country. Add the Latino part and you have a Latino gay man leading the Cal Assembly.

The world has changed.

In a conference call on Tuesday, Speaker Perez talked with LGBT media about his priorities as Speaker this year. He obviously is making efforts to make the Assembly more transparent by limiting texting while lawmakers are on the floor.

Education is a priority for him and he wants to take advantage of his new positions on the UC Regents board as well as sitting on the CSU board of Trustees to review fiscal policies and the impact of those policies on students. Rising tuition and over crowded classrooms have a significant impact on the accessibility of all California students to advanced studies.

Today there are statewide protests by students regarding these very issues. Speaker Perez (that looks so awesome) is concerned about the breadth and depth of financial resources available and what cuts will mean to grants such as CalGrants for students in California.

Also among his priorities in the upcoming budget he said "AIDS is a real priority for me." He did lead the charge last year against the Governor's attempts at cuts that turned out to be illegal. With the Governor having slashed all prevention money, the Speaker will be coming to the budget talks with a different set of priorities this year. He said this will "be a different relationship with the Governor."

The world has changed a gay man is leading the Assembly.

When queeried about his position on repealing Prop 8, the Speaker was unflinching in his analysis. He felt "there was no practical way" to overturn Prop 8. The lack of signatures and funding were fatal to any efforts this year.

In terms of the past Prop 8 campaign, he said that all the Latino electeds were on board with us. All his colleagues in Southern California supported the No on 8 campaign. We must "invest in education" and talk to people we didn't talk to last time, Latinos, African Americans, working people.

Speaker Perez feels the ultimate solution to the problems plaguing California is to work in greater coalition. "We must invest in a broader approach" to coalition work and problem solving.

Many moons ago, my family, my Latino community, was very excited about the new world that awaited them, not working in fields, getting educations for them and their children, having people represent us in different places. When well known singer Eydie Gorme started singing older Mexican songs with the famous Trio Los Panchos on the Ed Sullivan Show, we knew we had arrived. A real star was embracing her roots and singing in our language. No hiding, no changing the subject about Mexican roots but luxuriating in her browness.

I won't say Speaker John Perez is the Latino LGBT Eydie Gorme (wait, I just said it!) but it is a big ceiling that has been cracked. And just like Pete Wilson said, "They keep coming and coming." We're right behind you John!

The world has changed. It has gotten much better...

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With all due respect, and praise for the accomplishments of Speaker Perez, he was not the "first openly gay person to occupy this top of the food chain position ... in the country.

That distinction goes to Allan Spear, also the first out male politician elected [preceding Harvey Milk by a year] who served most of his 28 years in the State Senate of Minnesota as an openly gay man [after coming out in 1974, two years into his first term], and eight of them as its openly gay President, beginning in 1992. The math: EIGHTEEN years ago. Frankly, speaking as a CA adoptee, it's embarrassing that it took "the most liberal state" so long.

Spear's "proudest legislative achievement," after 20 years of trying, was getting passage in 1993 of Minnesota's Human Rights Act, guaranteeing protection from discrimination in education, employment, and housing...apparently the first such state law to include transgender people.

He finally did it by gaining the support of the leader of the Senate Republicans, a Lutheran minister, and 10 other Republicans.

Spear passed in 2008, survived by his longtime partner Junjiro Tsuji.

Sometimes its nice to savor the small victories.

It has been nice watching DC issue marriage license and the collective ho hum, nothing to see here, response by the vast majority of residents of the District of Columbia.

Now, what does a guy have to do to get a date?

Marc Paige | March 6, 2010 4:28 PM

Not sure if he is sworn in yet, but I beleive Gordon Fox, a gay man of color, is now the Speaker of the House in Rhode Island. I realize it's a small state, but don't overlook this accomplishment!

miss wild thing | March 7, 2010 5:55 PM

John is the first Speaker of the Assembly which is a different body that Minnesota's Senate. So while Spear was at the top of the food chain in the Senate, John is at the top in the Assembly.

He is sworn in to that position this week.

Having living in a flyover state for a decade, I would not purposely ignore smaller states. A victory is a victory.

onewildthing | March 7, 2010 6:00 PM

One more thing. I misquoted John on his comment about Prop 8. He said the initiative is dead for this year, not forever.

This was my mistake.

I did not dispute the assertion that Mr. Perez was as the "top of the food chain" in the CA Assembly, but the incorrect assertion that he is the "first openly gay person to occupy this top of the food chain position ... IN THE COUNTRY."

Thank you.