The 1994 election made California history. The first openly gay person, Sheila Kuehl, was elected to the California legislature who is now LA County Supervisor for the Third District which stretches from the ocean cities of Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice east to Los Feliz and through the whole San Fernando Valley to Pacoima and San Fernando.
Jonah Markowitz’ and Tracy Wares’ new documentary tells the story of the first four openly gay Sacramento legislators, beginning with Sheila Kuehl and then Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe. These women are determined, focused and passionate lesbians who took the very personal cause of equal rights for the LGBTQ community into government.
.Each of the four has proven to be a shrewd political operator as they introduced bills piecemeal in order to stop discrimination a little at a time. The opposition was tough but they persisted and here we actually see the hostility mainly from the extreme right faction of the of the male dominated Republican Party. There same people would enter the Chamber holding their bibles.
For those of us who are LGBT it is hard to understand why elected officials opposed bills that were aimed at making schools safer for LGBT children, or making it illegal for people to be fired for being gay. We must remember that this was true just some fifteen years ago. It is even harder to understand that in such an enlightened and forward moving state like California that homosexuality was still be compared to necrophilia, pedophilia and even to bestiality. These people were quick to talk about something that most of them knew nothing about.
The four women profiled here had the courage of their convictions to be openly gay politicians at a time when this wasn’t done. They had to become more than mere spokesmen for our community and often had to act as ambassadors from the LGBT community.
Together Sheila Kuehl Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg, and Christine Kehoe took the LGBT civil rights struggle from the streets to the state capitol. The film uses present day interviews with a wealth of news clips, photographs, and archival footage to tell us about these four pioneering women. Short bios of each politician reveal backgrounds that include lesbian separatism, Berkeley’s free speech movement, and even a role on the 1960s television show “Dobie Gillis”.
The film traces the passage of domestic partnership legislation and how it paved the way for marriage equality, but the real story is the way these out and proud politicians banded together and slowly transformed the state assembly itself. Initially they had to deal with fear, indifference, and unbelievable homophobia but they gradually won acceptance and support from an expanding group of straight allies. This is a film you do not want to miss.