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California Elects Four Lesbians to Assembly

State legislators (left to right) Christine Kehoe, Carole Migden, Sheila James Kuehl, and Jackie Goldberg.
State legislators (left to right) Christine Kehoe, Carole Migden, Sheila James Kuehl, and Jackie Goldberg.

By 2000, California saw the election of its first four out members of the Assembly. Jackie Goldberg, who was previously a two-term member of the Los Angeles City Council, won election in 2000 as did Chris Kehoe, who had been a San Diego City Council member. 

First elected in 1994, Sheila Kuehl was the first out LGBTQ+ member of the Assembly, and was joined by Assemblywoman and future state Senator Carole Migden in 1996.

The four women – featured in the 2016 documentary Political Animals – were successful in transforming then-Republican-leaning California into a national leader on LGBTQ+ rights. Bills authored by the four legislators led to the legal recognition of same-sex parents, the creation of domestic partnerships and expanded access to HIV medication. 

California’s LGBTQ+ legislators celebrate as Governor Gray Davis signs the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003. Courtesy of Karen Ocamb.

Karla Drenner Becomes Georgia’s First Out State Legislator

Rep. Drenner at her swearing in.
Rep. Drenner at her swearing in.

Karla Drenner was inspired to enter politics watching her mother, who held several government jobs. An environmental science expert, Drenner was the first out LGBTQ+ person elected to the Georgia state legislature in 2000, defeating a four-term incumbent. “I never got a single piece of hate mail or any derogatory phone calls from inside my district,” Drenner told The Advocate in 2005. “I attribute that to the fact that I never hid that I was gay, and I was literally and figuratively out and about.”

Rep. Drenner speaks on the floor of the Georgia House. Courtesy of Karla Drenner.

LGBTQ Council Majority Elected in Wilton Manors

Wilton Manors City Hall
Wilton Manors City Hall

Wilton Manors is known as an LGBTQ+ haven in Florida, with the highest LGBTQ+ population of any town in the state. So it’s no surprise that the Fort Lauderdale suburb would be the second jurisdiction in the country to achieve a unique milestone: elect mostly LGBTQ+ leaders to its city council. (The first city council to achieve an LGBTQ+ majority was West Hollywood, California, upon its founding in 1984.) 

John Fiore, who became mayor after his service on the council said that sexual orientation wasn’t much of a factor in his race. “I’m sure some people voted for my opponent because I was gay, but a lot of people voted for me because of my past on the council,” Fiore told the Associated Press in 2000. “I didn’t run as a gay candidate for mayor. I ran as a candidate who happened to be gay.”

In 2018, Wilton Manors elected the country’s second all-LGBTQ+ council.

Gay Lawmaker Secures Civil Unions in Vermont

Rep. Bill Lippert opens a debate on marriage equality legislation in the Vermont House in April 2009. AP photo
Rep. Bill Lippert opens a debate on marriage equality legislation in the Vermont House in April 2009. AP photo

Bill Lippert spent the 1970s and 1980s building community spirit by organizing Vermont’s first LGBTQ+ pride rally in Burlington and launching supportive foundations. But he felt the tug of legislative politics after Gov. Howard Dean appointed him to a vacant seat in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1994 during a backlash against LGBTQ+ rights. By 2016, he served eleven full terms in office.

Central to Lippert’s legacy is his historic effort in 2000 to draft and pass Vermont’s landmark civil unions bill as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee. In December 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. State of Vermont that same-sex couples had the constitutional right to the rights and responsibilities of marriage but did not confer marriage itself. Instead the court told the legislature to either grant marriage or come up with a parallel structure.

After a series of ugly hearings and death threats that clearly excluded the possibility of passing marriage, they came up with “civil unions,” granting everything but the word “marriage.”

Lippert’s emotional speech on March 15, 2000, is widely credited with the bill’s passage. The House was silent as Vermont’s only out LGBTQ+ legislator asked his colleagues to understand same-sex relationships as “miracles” amid unrelenting prejudice—a “triumph against discrimination and prejudice.” And he described the crucible of the AIDS epidemic. “Don’t tell me what a committed relationship is and isn’t,” he said.

The Rutland Herald reported on March 16, 2000, that Lippert felt it was strange to ask: “Should we get our rights now, or should we wait a little longer, or should we ask all the people whether we should get our rights?” 

The bill passed the House 79 to 68 and Governor Howard Dean signed it into law on April 26. When the law went into effect on July 1, 2000, Vermont became the first state to confer to couples in a civil union the same benefits as marriage in the eyes of state law 

Years later Lippert led the passage of a marriage equality bill, including overriding Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto, bringing marriage to same-sex couples on April 7, 2009. He subsequently married his partner of 26 years, Enrique S. Peredo Jr.

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Endorsed Candidates in 2000

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund endorsed 52 candidates in 2000.


Toni Atkins (D), San Diego City Council, California

Tammy Baldwin (D), U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin

Jarrett Barrios (D), State House, Massachusetts

Julia Boseman (D), New Hanover County Board, North Carolina

Raymond Buckley (D), State Senate, New Hampshire

Tom Chiola (D), Cook County Court, Illinois

Scott Dibble (D), State House, Minnesota

Karla Drenner (D), State Assembly , Georgia

John Fiore, Wilton Manors Mayor, Florida

Margo Frasier (D), Travis County Sheriff, Texas

Neil Giuliano (R), Tempe Mayor, Arizona

Jackie Goldberg (D), State Assembly , California

Cheryl Jacques (D), State Senate, Massachusetts

Christine Kehoe (D), State Assembly, California

Chris Kolb (D), State House, Michigan

Jim Kolbe (R), U.S. House of Representatives, Arizona

Sheila Kuehl (D), State Senate, California

Mark Leno (D), San Francisco Board of Supervisors, California

Evelyn Mantilla (D), State House, Connecticut

Steve May (D), State House, Arizona

Larry McKeon (D), State House, Illinois

Gary Miller (D), Robla School Board, California

Nick Panagopoulos (D), State House, New Hampshire

David Parks (D), State Assembly, Nevada

Gregory Pettis (D), Cathedral City City Council, California

Mike Pisaturo (D), State House, Rhode Island

Patty Sheehan (D), Orlando City Commission, Florida

Craig Sherritt (D), Wilton Manors City Council, Florida

Ken Yeager (D), San Jose City Council, California


Terrell Brown (R), State Senate, Minnesota

Ed Flanagan (D), Senate Congress, Vermont

Robert Gomer (D), Cathedral City City Council, California

Stephen Herman (D), San Francisco School Board, California

Rebecca Kaplan (D), Oakland City Council, California

John Ladner (D), Los Angeles Municipal Court, California

Thom Martin (D), State House, West Virginia

Juanita Owens (D), San Francisco Board of Supervisors, California

Jeanette Oxford (D), State House, Missouri

Judy Powers (D), State Senate, Maine

Gerry Schipske (D), U.S. House of Representatives, California

David Schwacke (R), South Carolina State Solicitor, South Carolina

Paul Smedberg (D), Alexandria City Council, Virginia

Liz Stefanics (D), State Senate, New Mexico

Frank Tierney (D), Coronado City Council, California

Rick Trombly (D), State Senate, New Hampshire

Lisa Vecoli (D), State Senate, Minnesota

Elizabeth Wachsman (D), Nevada Family Court, Nevada

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