May 25, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Senator Mark Leno Praised as 17-Year CA Legislative Career Ends (Video)

Mark says thanksBY KAREN OCAMB  |  Most LGBT Californians got to know Mark Leno after he was elected to the State Assembly in 2002 and became an outspoken proponent for marriage rights for same sex couples. But it was not a new fight for him: in 2000, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing the Castro and surrounding districts, Leno was a statewide leader against the anti-gay Prop 22 initiative and introduced legislation that would allow a tenant protection to get another roommate if the previous roommate (or lover) died from AIDS.  He also secured equal access to the city’s health care plan for the city’s transgender employees.

That’s just some of the heart and experience Leno, a small business owner, brought with him to the Assembly, where he joined John Laird from Santa Cruz in becoming the first gay men in that august body. They joined with Sheila Kuehl, Chris Kehoe and Carole Migden to form the California LGBT Legislative Caucus.

But none of that—nor any of his hard work fighting against Prop 8 and for LGBT rights—was mention by his State Senate colleagues on Wednesdaynight, Aug. 31, the last day of the legislative session for the body he had served since 2008. Instead he was praised for his leadership as chair of the Senate Budget Committee, leadership his Republican counterparts said was brilliant, fair, and resulted in a state budget surplus. Their effusive respect and obviously sincere declarations of friendship and goodwill were a very far cry from the ultra-conservatives who unflinchingly harangued and slurred Leno in the early years as he successfully passed two marriage equality bills, vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Leno’s 17-year political legacy from Supervisor to State Legislature, where he authored 161 laws, will be remembered as one of grace, brilliance and always fighting for the underdog, as a terrific Los Angeles Times portrait pointed out.

Last June, The Times notes, after Leno presented “his final state spending plan as budget chairman, the entire Senate rose for a long and loud ovation. As many Republicans as Democrats praised him.” For a gay man who took over Harvey Milk’s seat in San Francisco, that image encapsulates LGBT progress in California.

Kevin De Leon

State Sen. Pro Tem Kevin De Leon opened the tribute to Leno, describing him as “elegance, eloquence with the intellectual super fire power to deal with the complexities and the arcane-ness of today’s budget matters,” which are now multi-dimensional and worldwide. Noting that Leno is a Democrat who “leans to the very far left” but “gets the incredible respect from within the political spectrum,” De Leon called the San Franciscan “the best budget chair that I worked with” a leader with “so much knowledge, so much wisdom and so much grace.”

Mark Leno seatedSenate Majority Leader Bill Monning said Leno leads “with such a steady sense of purpose,” adding that he “makes the impossible possible. And he does it with aplomb and grace and always with great respect. We’re going to miss you tremendously.”

 Republican Sen. Anthony Canella of Ceres noted that there were times when the two clashed politically but said he will forever be grateful to Leno for helping a school district that had gone into receivership for which he had been unsuccessful in getting funding.  

 “I’ve served with some of the best of them here,” said Republican Sen. Jim Nielson of Tehama. “You’re right up there with the best, Sen. Leno. I’ve so enjoyed serving with you as vice chair of that committee….You are a legislator’s legislator, a  senator’s senator. You’ve brought great distinction on this entire legislature and particularly on the Senate.”

Mark Leno honoredBut it was Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego who got the biggest laugh. “Senators, this is a sad day for me. You see, Mark completes me,” Anderson said, alluding to the famous Tom Cruise romantic line from the film “Jerry Maguire.” Anderson noted that he has “a little bit of a reputation of being from a very conservative area” and considers Leno his “bookend.” That dynamic lead to a “great friendship” and great teamwork. “You’re a unique individual, a true statesman” and, said the conservative to the gay liberal, “you complete me.”

Raising the microphone when it was his turn to speak, Leno seemed mindful of the chamber full of colleagues as a rarified club of public servants. But instead of closing his final moments with soaring rhetoric, Leno used the occasion to thank those who had worked with and for him.

“I think we all understand the great privilege it is to be one of 40 representing almost 40 million people,” Leno said, looking around. “There’s no job like it. There is certainly no legislative job like it anywhere in the country, if the world.”

Mark thanks his colleaguesAnd then he called out for special recognition Chief of Staff Bob Hartnagel, who has been with Leno for all 17 years and his district staff who have been with him for his 14 years in the Legislature.  Though the longevity of service might seem normal to Leno, surely there were some colleagues wondering who among them also warranted such loyalty. Then displaying the humble grace for which he had been so roundly praised, Leno named a number of the Senate chamber staff and others who work behind the scenes and too often go unnoticed in the course of the legislative session.

 “This has been the opportunity and experience of a lifetime and it’s been a great ride. Everyone is asking what’s next, what’s next? My honest answer is—I haven’t a clue. But as unsettling as that can be, it’s also with great exhilaration. It’s time for the next chapter,” said Mark Leno, concluding his remarks and his legislative career. “We’re all beneficiaries of term limits. Without them, Willie Brown would still be in my old Assembly seat. And we all soon become victims. Those are the rules coming in and those are the rules going out and there are talented young energetic capable people who will follow us. So – from the bottom of my heart—I thank you.”

Mark moves mic for final time

And with that, Leno brought down his Senate microphone for the last time.

Mark hugged by Kevin De Leon

He received a standing ovation, a big hug from De Leon.

Mark gets kiss from Bob Hertzberg

And a kiss from Sen. Bob Hertzberg from the San Fernando Valley, a scene never imagined in the California State Legislature that Mark Leno joined in 2003. But on Wednesday, the gay legislative heir to Harvey Milk received a grateful standing ovation. 

Mark - standing ovation

Here’s the entire video of the State Senate tribute to Mark Leno.

Related Posts

Requiring CA to Collect Data on COVID-19’s Health Impacts on the LGTBQ Community?

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

Currently, California collects data on COVID-19’s impacts on different races/ethnicities; SB 932 would expand this data collection to include the...

How COVID-19 Impacts Black LGBTQ+ People

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

Amidst horrifying racial disparities, “COVID While Black and Queer” is a new data initiative that will shine a light on...

PBS Celebrates Pride Month with PRIDELAND

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

Short-Form Digital Series and New One-Hour Special with Host and Actor Dyllón Burnside, Exploring LGBTQ+ Identity in the U.S. South...

Covid-19 & HIV: Who Are You Choosing To Be?

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

By Staff Writer A free zoom seminar this Friday, May 15, 2020 from 12:00-2:00pm. This weeks event covers Covid-19, HIV:...

CA Attorney General Urges FDA to Eliminate Bias Against Gay and Bisexual Men for Blood Donations

April 24, 2020

April 24, 2020

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a multistate coalition in submitting comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human...

Over 1,000 COVID-19 Cases Confirmed as WEHO’s Rate Continues to Rise

April 23, 2020

April 23, 2020

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has confirmed over 1,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus...

GLAAD to Host COVID-19 Event Featuring Pete Buttigieg and More

April 22, 2020

April 22, 2020

LAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, announced that Billy Porter, Pete &...

Over 500 Medical Professionals Sign Letter The FDA To Eliminate Ban On Gay And Bisexual Men Donating Blood

April 16, 2020

April 16, 2020

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today released an open letter penned by over...

Lawmakers Ask State and Counties to Collect Data on LGBTQ Community and COVID-19

April 14, 2020

April 14, 2020

Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria, Chair and Vice-Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus respectively, sent...

WeHo’s High COVID-19 Rate

April 1, 2020

April 1, 2020

City of West Hollywood has highest rate of COVID-19 in LA Countywide, LGBTQ population at risk By Sam Catanzaro As...

Elderly LGBT people in California at high risk for COVID-19 illness

April 1, 2020

April 1, 2020

By Staff Writer 162,000 LGB and 9,000 transgender elderly people in California at high risk for COVID-19 illness, according to...

Los Angeles LGBT Center on Coronavirus Resources

March 22, 2020

March 22, 2020

The Los Angeles LGBT Center has released the following recommendations for members of the LGBTQ+ community during the novel coronavirus...

West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico Tests Positive for the Coronavirus

March 19, 2020

March 19, 2020

57-year-old mayor in self-quarantine By James Mills West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico has tested positive for the coronavirus. West Hollywood...

Coronavirus’ Added Risk for LGBTQ+ Communities

March 17, 2020

March 17, 2020

More than 100 LGBTQ+ organizations have signed an open letter outlining the added risk the novel coronavirus poses on the...

Long Beach Pride Postponed

March 17, 2020

March 17, 2020

Event to be rescheduled for later in the year By James Mills Amid coronavirus concerns, both LA Pride and Long...