Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Sheila Kuehl

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kuehl was the first openly LGBT person elected to the California legislature. As a teenager she was a successful television actor, appearing as Zelda Gilroy in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). She later went to Harvard Law School and became the first women to win “Best Oralist” in its Moot Court competition. As a civil rights attorney, she specialized in women’s issues and co-founded the California Women’s Law Center. Elected to the State Assembly in 1994, she served three terms before moving on to the State Senate from 2001-2008. The first woman in California history to serve as Speaker Pro Tem of the Assembly, Kuehl authored 171 bills that became law, and especially focused on the rights of women, children, and families. Among her achievements was the first Paid Family Leave law in the U.S. Leaving the legislature in 2008 because of term limits, Kuehl called her time there “the best job I’ve ever had . . . I really feel I have the power to save lives.” She remains active in campaigns for social justice.