Mark Leno

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Mark Leno
Mark Leno.jpg
Member of the California State Senate
from the 11th district
3rd district (2008–2012)
Assumed office
December 1, 2008
Preceded by Carole Migden
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 13th district
In office
December 2, 2002 – December 1, 2008
Preceded by Carole Migden
Succeeded by Tom Ammiano
Member of the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from District 8
In office
April 22, 1998 – December 2, 2002
Preceded by Susan Leal
Succeeded by Bevan Dufty
Personal details
Born (1951-09-24) September 24, 1951 (age 65)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Colorado at Boulder
Profession Politician, Businessman
Religion Jewish

Mark Leno (born September 24, 1951) is an American politician, representing California's 11th State Senate district, which includes San Francisco and part of San Mateo County. He was first elected to the State Senate in 2008 and is the first openly gay man to serve there.[1] Leno was previously one of the first two openly gay men (along with John Laird) to serve in the Assembly. He also served as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors between 1998 and 2002 after being appointed by Willie Brown. Leno is the owner of Budget Signs Inc., a small business.

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.[2][3] 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.[3]

Board of Supervisors[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5]

In 2001, Leno successfully introduced an ordinance providing equal access to the city's health plan for transgender employees of San Francisco.[6]

State Assembly[edit]

Leno at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in April 2010

He was then elected to the California State Assembly in 2002, and was re-elected in 2004 and 2006. Leno was the chair of the Assembly's powerful 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,[2] 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.[2] 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.[7] He authored California Assembly Bill Number AB 1668, on February 23, 2007 — a bill encouraging Open Document Formats ODF in California.[8]

In Leno's first two terms in the Assembly, 58 of his bills were signed into law. Leno 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.[9]

He also authored of SB 810, the California Universal Health Care Act. In 2008, Leno introduced legislation he named 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.[10]

In 2013, Leno authored a state budget bill that included a rider exempting local governments from some provisions of the state Public Records Act. Many newspapers strongly criticized the rider, and the ACLU of Northern California said, "Interfering with public access to public records will only shroud elected officials in more secrecy at a time when transparency is more crucial than ever before."[11] The budget bill passed and was signed into law, but the Records Act provision was later rescinded by the legislature.[citation needed]

In September 2013, Leno authored, and the legislature approved, 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.[12]

Awards and honors[edit]

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.[2]

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.[2] 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.”[2]

In 2004, Leno received the Award of Courage from American Foundation for AIDS Research and he was honored by the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles at their 25th Anniversary. He also served as Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.[2]

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.[2]


External links[edit]

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

April 22, 1998– December 1, 2002
Succeeded by
Bevan Dufty
Preceded by
Carole Migden
California State Assemblymember, 13th District
December 2, 2002 – November 30, 2008
Succeeded by
Tom Ammiano
California State Senator, 3rd District
December 1, 2008 – present