On Wednesday, the California Assembly's Democratic Caucus selected Toni Atkins, an openly lesbian Democrat from San Diego, to lead the chamber when legislators reconvene in the spring. Democrats, who hold a majority in the chamber, do not need GOP support to advance a candidate.

The 51-year-old Atkins, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2010, will take over the post of speaker currently occupied by Assemblyman John Perez of Los Angeles, whose 2010 ascension from first-term Assemblyman to the chamber's first openly gay speaker was hailed as a victory by gay rights activists.

“Toni Atkins is an outstanding public servant who has earned the honor of leading her colleagues in the Assembly,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute, which champions openly gay politicians. “In the many years I've known her, Toni has always been focused on the future, on what's possible. That quality will serve the people of California well as she takes over as speaker, and it will inspire out women everywhere to believe they can achieve great things as public leaders in their own communities.”

Atkins served on the San Diego City Council from 2000 to 2008 and acted as the city's mayor for 5 months in 2005.