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Lawmakers honor out women

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Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski was honored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta during Monday's "Woman of the Year" ceremony in Sacramento. Photo: Giggle & Riot Photos
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski was honored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta during Monday's "Woman of the Year" ceremony in Sacramento. Photo: Giggle & Riot Photos  

Transgender women and lesbians were among the honorees at the Legislature's annual "Woman of the Year" event in Sacramento Monday, March 4.

Each Assembly member and state senator selected a woman from their district to honor. Following a luncheon that included a keynote address by first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, each chamber held a formal ceremony in the Capitol.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski was recognized by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). In addition to making history with her 2010 election, Kolakowski is a leader in educating the judiciary on trans issues.

"Proud to honor Alameda Co. Sup Court Judge Vicky Kolakowski, the nation's 1st transgender judge — a true pioneer & role model who delivers justice & promotes fairness everyday!" Bonta wrote on Twitter.

Kolakowski wrote on Twitter that she was "honored to receive this great honor." Her mother, June Kolakowski, traveled from Staten Island to attend the ceremony.

On the Peninsula, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) honored the Reverend Dr. G. Penny Nixon, a lesbian who's senior minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo, United Church of Christ. Nixon previously served as pastor of Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco.

Nixon is the convener of the Peninsula Solidarity Network, which involves congregations, schools, businesses, families, and individuals coming together to help defend victims of social and economic injustice. It also fights human rights violations and works to protect the safety of immigrants.

In southern California, Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) recognized lesbian Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Ph.D. According to her biography, Edwards is the longtime rabbi at Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim, the first synagogue in the world founded by gays and lesbians, and today an inclusive, progressive community celebrating Jewish faith and culture.

There was one light moment when Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) stood with his honoree, LGBT ally and comedian Kathy Griffin. After she was presented with her plaque, she shouted "Screw Donald Trump!" to much laughter in the chamber. Griffin was recognized for her brand of pull-no-punches comedy.

Over on the Senate side, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) honored Nicky "Tita Aida" Calma, a trans woman who has spent her life working in health promotion with a focus on HIV/AIDS and transgender issues.

"Thank you so much Scott for this recognition," Calma wrote on Facebook.

During the luncheon, Siebel Newsom, who has long championed women's rights, told the honorees and lawmakers that "Women's History Month has never felt more important. One woman's story can change the world."

She also mentioned the importance of a diversity of voices, saying that African-American women, LGBTQ women, and others make society better when they hold seats of power.

She pointed out the economic disparities faced by women, who typically earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. The amount is even less for women of color. The wealth gap, she said, means that women have only 32 cents for every dollar a man has.

"California is taking steps to address this disparity," Siebel Newsom said.

Full disclosure: Victoria Kolakowski is the wife of Bay Area Reporter news editor Cynthia Laird.

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