On Friday, June 6, the West Hollywood Lesbian Visibility Committee (WeHo LVC) will present their annual Etheridge Award to Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-California). The award, established in honor of the legendary Melissa Etheridge, is presented to a lesbian who’s accomplishments have made a significant impact within and for the lesbian community. Established in 2007, Etheridge herself received the first Etheridge Award.
Senator Kuehl is actually a thesbian-turned-politician. As a young actor, she was best known for her portrayal of Zelda Gilroy in the long-running 1950s TV show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. In 1965, she changed her focus to academics when she was accepted to Harvard Law School. She chaired the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first group of women to be admitted to Harvard Law (1950) when she graduated in 1975.
Kuehl made history twice: when she was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1994, becoming the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature, and when she served as Speaker pro tempore during the 1997-98 legislative sessions, becoming the first woman in California to hold the position. In 2000, after three terms in the Assembly, she was elected to the California State Senate. Re-elected in 2004 with 65.7% of the vote, she was dubbed the “smartest” member of the California Legislature by the California Journal. In 2006 she sponsored a bill that would prohibit any school district in California from adopting instructional material that discriminates against persons based on their gender or sexual orientation.
WeHo LVC was established in 1989 to support the lesbian community in West Hollywood, California, one of the largest lesbian enclaves in America. WeHo LVC’s mission is “to bring justice where injustices are being carried out in the lesbian community and to act as a resource for women in need.”