Media Club: September - Political Animals Documentary

This month's media club pick is super easy. It's an hour and a half documentary about the first four lesbian members of the California State Legislature and how they paved the way for gay rights. The documentary, Political Animals, came out in 2016 and can be viewed on several different platforms for rent or purchase on Youtube, Vimeo and Amazon Prime. Believe me, this doc is worth dropping $4 for.

Political Animals profiles four openly gay women who served in the California State Assembly and later, the State Senate, during the late 90s and early 2000s. It starts with Sheila Kuehl, the first to serve, and her efforts to create protections for gay students from being bullied. Eventually, she is joined by the second openly gay Assembly Member, Carole Migden. It is inspiring to see them work together to make this bill a reality and disheartening to see how many times it was shot down by their fellow Assembly members.

Political Animals is not a documentary about losses though. It highlights what happens when the number of minorities represented in a legislative body grow. In 2000, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe are elected to State Assembly bringing the LGBTQ representation in the State Legislature from 2 to 4. The documentary chronicles how these four women work together, strategize and support each other to enact more civil rights protections for the LGBTQ community in California. The most notable achievement was creating protections for Domestic Partnerships, allowing gay couples to attain similar rights to heterosexual married couples. This was instrumental in paving the way for similar protections in other states until 2015 when the Supreme Court deemed same-sex marriage constitutional.

I highly recommend you watch this wonderful documentary for several reasons:

  • It is so inspiring to see how these four women worked together through deep adversity and how, despite numerous setbacks, they were able to achieve real progress.

  • It is a great example of what one can do in local politics. You truly can change people's lives at the state level. And in a shorter amount of time.

  • I was surprised to see how riveting these leaders' speeches were during Assembly meetings. It's easy for people to assume that these meetings are boring and bureaucratic, but the clips from these women's speeches as well as from their counterparts were passionate and moving.

  • It's also inspiring to see how these women led lives of service leading up to their careers in the State Legislature. They were all active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and some worked in City Councils or similar positions before moving on to State government.

  • It demonstrates how change can be accomplished the more a minority is represented in government. Kuehl faced a lot of opposition alone, but as Migden, Goldberg and Kehoe joined, they were able to pass more legislation. There truly is power in numbers!

So head on over to Youtube or whatever your preferred streaming platform is and watch Political Animals. I cannot sing its praises enough.

Also, a reminder for any LGBTQ readers that are interested in running for office but need support. Head on over to The Victory Fund. They provide financial support and campaign training for openly gay and transgender candidates to run for office. Sheila Kuehl was actually endorsed by The Victory Fund in 1994 and-with their help-won!

So watch the film and tell us what you think. How does it inspire you? What traits do these leaders have that you see in yourself?