Mark Leno

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Mark Leno
Laughing Leno.jpg
Member of the California State Senate
In office
December 1, 2008 – November 30, 2016
Preceded byCarole Migden
Succeeded byScott Wiener
Constituency3rd district (2008–12)
11th district (2012–16)
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 13th district
In office
December 2, 2002 – November 30, 2008
Preceded byCarole Migden
Succeeded byTom Ammiano
Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from 8th district
In office
April 22, 1998 – December 2, 2002
Preceded bySusan Leal
Succeeded byBevan Dufty
Personal details
Born (1951-09-24) September 24, 1951 (age 71)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Domestic partnerDouglas Jackson (deceased)
EducationJerusalem University College (BA)

Mark Leno (born September 24, 1951) is an American politician who served in the California State Senate until November 2016.[1] A Democrat, he represented the 11th Senate district, which includes San Francisco and portions of San Mateo County. Before the 2010 redistricting, he represented the 3rd Senate district.

A member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, Leno was the first openly gay man elected to the State Senate.[2] He was previously one of the first two openly gay men (along with John Laird) to serve in the California State Assembly.

Before being elected to the State Senate in 2008, Leno served in the California State Assembly, representing the 13th Assembly District. Before his time in the Legislature, he served as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors between 1998 and 2002. Leno is the owner of Budget Signs Inc., a small business, and was a candidate in the San Francisco mayoral special election, which was held June 5, 2018.

Early life and education[edit]

Leno is the grandson of Russian Jewish immigrants. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he attended Nicolet High School and later the University of Colorado at Boulder. He was valedictorian of his graduating class at the American College in Jerusalem, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. Leno also spent two years in rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College in New York. Afterward, he moved to San Francisco on the invitation of his sister. He lived his first four years in the Tenderloin before moving to the Noe Valley neighborhood.[citation needed]

In 1978, Leno started Budget Signs as owner and operator. The business incorporated in 1982. Working with his life partner, Douglas Jackson, the business continued to grow and their involvement in community affairs steadily expanded. Jackson died from complications related to AIDS in 1990.[3][4]


Prior to his election, his political background included raising money for candidates and causes such as AIDS services, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Democratic Party.[4]

Board of Supervisors[edit]

Mark Leno as a member of the SF Board of Supervisors in his office at City Hall, 1999.

Leno was appointed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by Willie Brown in April 1998. He was elected citywide to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in November 1998 and re-elected in the reinstated district races of 2000. Leno's district included The Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, Twin Peaks, Duboce Triangle, and the westernmost part of the Mission District.

Leno introduced legislation to allow tenants to replace a roommate without losing their lease, measures to aid those with HIV/AIDS, and a measure to promote the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to help low income residents.[5] He authored legislation to ban mercury thermometers, one of the first such proposals in the country. In 2000, as a supervisor, he supported Proposition L, the slow-growth measure and authored legislation to protect neighborhood business districts from big box retail.[clarification needed] He was a statewide spokesman for the No on Proposition 22 campaign.[6]

In 2001, Leno successfully introduced an ordinance providing equal access to the city's health plan for transgender employees of San Francisco.[7]

State Assembly[edit]

Leno at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in April 2010

Leno was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002 and was re-elected in 2004 and 2006. He was the chair of the Assembly's Appropriations Committee, as well as the Select Committee on Childhood Obesity & Related Diabetes.

In 2005, Leno authored AB 849, a bill legalizing same-sex marriages that became the first bill of its kind to pass a legislative body in the United States. The bill passed both the Assembly and the State Senate[3] but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. In 2007, Leno introduced AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, that would have allowed for same-sex marriage.[3] This bill passed the Assembly and Senate but was again vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Same-sex marriage was legalized by the California Supreme Court in a May 2008 decision, becoming effective June 16, 2008.

In 2006, Leno and Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore co-authored a bill that would legalize the cultivation of non-psychoactive hemp. The bill does not conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act and would mandate that hemp be tested to ensure it is non-psychoactive.[8] He authored California Assembly Bill Number AB 1668, on February 23, 2007 — a bill encouraging Open Document Formats ODF in California.[9]

In Leno's first two terms in the Assembly, 58 of his bills were signed into law. He co-authored AB 32 to cap greenhouse emissions. He authored AB 706 to prohibit the use of fire retardants in upholstered furniture. He authored AB 2573 to allow San Francisco public utilities to install solar panels on public infrastructure. He also authored Assembly Bill 1358, the California Complete Streets Act, to require cities and counties to consider including walking and bicycling in their general plans. He coauthored the AB 583, California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, to bring public financing to political campaigns.

State Senate[edit]

In 2008, he won the Democratic Party nomination for California's 3rd Senate district with 43.8 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Senator Carole Migden, who had 28.6 percent of the vote, and former Assemblyman Joe Nation, who had 27.6 percent of the vote. Leno was a principal co-author of SB 840, the Single-Payer Universal Health Care Act, which would have provided health care coverage for all Californians and would have replaced hundreds of health insurance companies with state-provided coverage.[10]

During his 14-year term in the State Legislature, Leno authored numerous bills[11] including:

  • SB 810, the California Universal Health Care Act.
  • The Airline Passenger Bill of Rights. The bill requires airlines to provide basic needs for passengers, such as water, snacks, fresh air, sanitary restrooms, and lights if a plane is delayed on a tarmac at a California airport.[12]
  • A state constitutional amendment regarding the Public Records Act. The amendment clarifies that local governments must comply with requests for publicly available documents, and requires local governments to pay in full the costs of those requests. The amendment was approved by voters in the November 2014 election as Proposition 42.[13]
  • The Fair Education Act, which ensures LGBT and disabled people are included in social science history curriculum.[14]
  • Legislation to require disclosure of the use or absence of flame retardant chemicals on existing furniture labels.[15]
  • A smartphone "kill switch bill", requiring phones sold in the state to include an anti-theft technology.[16]
  • Legislation to establish Harvey Milk Day in California, making California the first state in the nation to officially honor the civil rights activist.[17]
  • SB 178, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act which strengthened the digital privacy rights of California citizens.[18]
  • The state's minimum wage increase to $15 per hour in 2022.[19]
  • Legislation to limit and restrict the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.[20]
  • Legislation to add electronic cigarettes to the state's existing smoke-free laws and require the packaging to be child-resistant.[21]
  • California's first major reform of the state's public utilities commission.[22]
  • Legislation to exempt Single Room Occupancy units from the Ellis Act.[23]
  • The California Community Corrections Performance Incentive Act of 2009, which helps reduce California's prison admissions.[24]

Awards and honors[edit]

Leno has been recognized by LGBT organizations,[25] civil rights advocacy groups, and non-profits[26] throughout his tenure for his commitment to public service and for authoring legislation to combat discrimination,[27] protect the rights of all Californians,[18] and lift millions out of poverty.[28]

In 2003, Leno earned recognition from the American Heart Association, the California Association of Food Banks and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.[3] In 2004, Leno received the Award of Courage from American Foundation for AIDS Research and was honored by the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles at their 25th Anniversary. Also in 2004, Leno (and Chris Reynolds and Steve Sampson) received a President's Award as part of the Pantheon of Leather Awards.[29] Leno was the first out leatherman to be a state legislator in the United States.[30] He also served as Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.[3]

In 2005, he was honored by the California Attorneys For Criminal Justice with their Scales of Justice Award in recognition to his fair and balanced approach in chairing the Assembly Public Safety Committee.[3] He received the "Lifetime Friend and Champion" award from the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club and was chosen by OUT Magazine as one of 2005's "Most Intriguing Gay Men."[3] In 2006, he was honored by the Stonewall Democratic Club in Los Angeles with their Sheila Kuehl Trail Blazer Award, the Lazarus Project's Lazarus Award for Marriage Equality, the California Young Democrats' Mentor of the Year, Partners Ending Domestic Abuse's Kamala Harris Leadership Award, and Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim's 2006 Herman Humanitarian Award.[3]

In 2011, the Consumer Attorneys of California presented him with the Leadership of the Year Award[31] and he received the Transgender Law Center's Community Ally Award in 2010.[32] He received the California Community Choice Aggregation Champion award in 2014 for his dedication to green energy by Marin Clean Energy.

In 2015, he received the leadership award from the Northern California Innocence Project for advancing legislation to prevent wrongful conviction[33] and the Women's Human Rights Award by Friends of the Commission on the Status of Women.[34]

In 2016, he was recognized by the Coachella Valley Harvey Milk Diversity Coalition for his leadership on LGBT issues,[35] the Mental Health Association of San Francisco for his work on mental health issues,[36] the Western Center on Law and Poverty for his dedication to public service,[37] and the Electronic Frontier Foundation for his work to protect digital privacy, among other recognitions.[26]


  1. ^;jsessionid=node01obruf5aknte3ij5ghxzltv6p994723.node0
  2. ^ Lovett, Ian (July 14, 2011). "California to Require Gay History in Schools". The New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Official Assembly home page". Archived from the original on December 5, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Gordon, Rachel (1998-04-01). "Leno moves to prime time". SFGATE. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  5. ^ Lewis, Gregory (1998-10-14). "Short-term supervisor has little name recognition". SFGATE. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  6. ^ Matthew S. Bajko,"Marriage fight casts shadow on Senate race", Bay Area Reporter, May 4, 2008.
  7. ^ "Mark Leno Already Vying for Another Job", The Noe Valley Voice (July–August 2001); retrieved on May 17, 2001.
  8. ^ Industrial Hemp Legislation in California on YouTube
  9. ^ And California Makes Four,; accessed November 8, 2014.
  10. ^ "Single payer universal health care proposed by Mark Leno",; accessed November 21, 2014.
  11. ^ "Even rivals say Mark Leno is one of Sacramento's most accomplished lawmakers. Now, his time is up". Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-29. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  12. ^ Leno's airline passenger 'bill of rights',; accessed November 21, 2014.
  13. ^ "California Proposition 42, Compliance of Local Agencies with Public Records (2014)". BallotPedia. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  14. ^ "Bill Text - SB-48 Pupil instruction: prohibition of discriminatory content". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  15. ^ "Bill Text - SB-1019 Upholstered furniture: flame retardant chemicals". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  16. ^ "Leno's Smartphone Kill Switch Bill Signed into Law". NBC Bay Area. 25 August 2014.
  17. ^ "SB 572 Senate Bill - ENROLLED". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  18. ^ a b "Bill Text - SB-178 Privacy: electronic communications: search warrant". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  19. ^ "Bill Text - SB-3 Minimum wage: in-home supportive services: paid sick days". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  20. ^ "Bill Text - SB-1143 Juveniles: room confinement". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  21. ^ "California's smoking age raised from 18 to 21 under bills signed by Gov. Brown". Los Angeles Times. 2016-05-05. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  22. ^ "Legislature Moves Toward Landmark Reforms at Public Utilities Commission". KQED. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  23. ^ "AB 1217 Assembly Bill - CHAPTERED". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  24. ^ "Bill Text - SB-678 Criminal recidivism". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  25. ^ "2016 Gala Highlights". Horizons Foundation. 2016-10-14. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  26. ^ a b "25th Annual Pioneer Awards Ceremony".[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Bill Text - AB-196 Discrimination". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  28. ^ "Bill Text - SB-3 Minimum wage: in-home supportive services: paid sick days". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  29. ^ 🖉"Pantheon of Leather Awards All Time Recipients - The Leather Journal".
  30. ^ Lenius, Steve (March 5, 2004). "Leather Life: The Envelope, Please".
  31. ^ "11AwardRecipients". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  32. ^ "SPARK! Awardees". Transgender Law Center. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  33. ^ Waters, Michelle. "Northern California Innocence Project Honors Award Recipients at 2015 Justice for All". Santa Clara Law. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  34. ^ "CEDAW Awards for Women's Human Rights". Archived from the original on 17 March 2011.
  35. ^ Snow, Nicholas (19 May 2016). "Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Larger Than Ever". Archived from the original on 22 May 2016.
  36. ^ "North Stars". Mental Health Association San Francisco. Retrieved 2020-12-02.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ "GARDEN PARTY 2016 The home of Howard & Kerri Steinberg". Archived from the original on 5 November 2016.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
District 8

Succeeded by
California Assembly
Preceded by Member of the California State Assembly
13th district

Succeeded by
California Senate
Preceded by Member of the California State Senate
3rd district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the California State Senate
11th district

Succeeded by