Out lesbians Sheila Kuehl, Carole Migden and Jackie Goldberg are “Political Animals”


In a world where men usually rule, it probably comes as a surprise to many to learn that the first four openly gay elected California state politicians were women. Perhaps just as surprising is the fact that in a state generally considered to be progressive, it took until 1994 for the first of these four to be elected. And just who are these four? They’re political powerhouses Sheila Kuehl, Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe, and they’re the subjects of a new documentary called Political Animals.

We recently caught up with Sheila, Carole and Jackie, who were together again to promote the film. We asked about their thoughts on the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide, how their lesbian identities gave them an upper hand in politics, what they think about the current political climate in America and more.

Jackie Goldberg,  Carole Migden, Sheila Kuehl and Christine Kehoe1 credited Chelsea Lauren, courtesy of Afterword Pictures and Idiot Savant Picturesphotos courtesy Afterword Pictures and IdiotSavant Pictures

AfterEllen.com: I want to know from each of you, after everything you’ve lived through both professionally and personally, how did you experience the news of the legalization of same-sex marriage across the nation?

Sheila Kuehl: I think we all just jumped up and down for joy because when we were in the state legislature in California, we couldn’t even imagine it. We would talk about it and say, “Well we can’t certainly go for that. Let’s try to get some rights for the kids, or let’s try to get domestic partners.”

Carole Migden: The fact that attitudes have changed in America in 15 years is astounding. I think we feel like we did pave the way and create a model, but that young people have proven to be increasingly favorable to gay issues, and they’ve even introduced gender identity issues. So I think we’re witnessing a changing culture that’s more accepting of those that are left behind.

Jackie Goldberg: My immediate reaction was to be overjoyed. I really didn’t think the court was going to go quite as far as it did and I was really quite thrilled. But then I had a secondary reaction, and that was, “Okay, so you can get married on Sunday and get fired from your job on Monday in many states and be kicked out of your housing on Tuesday.” Once that happened it was legitimizing, really, that we are people. I know that sounds like a funny thing to say, but there were a lot of people who weren’t so sure we were really people. So once you legitimize that, then it does open the path to saying, “Well now that’s not the only issue.” And I think that it has done that.

SK: It legitimized us as human beings in one way, but as you’ll see if you see the movie, any way in which they discriminate against someone lowers your status. That’s what it’s for. And so if you can still be fired, you’re not fully human.

CM: When the United States Supreme Court made that herculean decision, I expected riots in America. And maybe this county clerk didn’t like it, and now we’re working out issues with the state of Georgia, and clearly there’s more work to be done. But truly, people accepted it. The work’s not done, but certainly, as Jackie has said, a plateau was reached where our families and our children are accepted.

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