In 1994, Sheila Kuehl became the first openly gay member of the California State Assembly. “People think it was earlier,” she says in this eye-opening documentary. “It wasn’t.” She would be joined in short order by Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg, and Christine Kehoe, who together took the LGBT civil rights struggle from the streets to the state capitol. Combining present day interviews with a wealth of news clips, photographs, and archival footage, Political Animals tells the story of these four pioneering lesbian politicians and the battles they fought to pass a wide range of anti-discrimination laws. Zippy animation clarifies the sometimes arcane nuts and bolts of the legislative process, and mini-bios of each politician reveal backgrounds that include lesbian separatism, Berkeley’s free speech movement, and a role on the 1960s television show Dobie Gillis.
The film traces the passage of domestic partnership legislation and how it paved the way for marriage equality, but the real story is the way these out and proud politicians banded together and slowly transformed the state assembly itself. Initially confronted with fear, indifference, and jaw-dropping homophobia—Assembly member Peter Frusetta’s rambling monologue on hormonally challenged heifers must be seen to be believed—the four women gradually won acceptance and support from an expanding group of straight allies. This is a must-see documentary for political animals of all stripes. (Monica Nolan, Frameline)
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