State Sen. Mark Leno is a high-profile Democrat from San Francisco who is passionate about equality toward all people.
What makes him a well-known legislator is that he's openly gay and is an outspoken gay rights advocate.
Leno, 59, has served in the state Senate, Assembly and the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors. But before that, he wanted to become a rabbi.
"I entered rabbinical school, but as studies progressed, I realized it wasn't what I wanted to do," Leno said in a telephone interview with the News-Sentinel.
Leno was born and raised in Wisconsin and attended rabbinical school in New York City. He moved to San Francisco in 1977 because his sister already lived there. He started a business called Budget Signs with his domestic partner, Douglas Jackson. Jackson died in 1990 from complications of HIV and AIDS.
Leno then served on the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors and the California Assembly before becoming a state senator in December 2008.
"As the business grew, I naturally gravitated to become involved in community affairs, nonprofit boards and raising money for causes," Leno said. "Then I raised money for candidates and ballot measures."
That led to him seeking public office.
"I realized that I loved the legislative process, that I was a closet policy wonk," he said. "I find it a great privilege and rare opportunity to be in state Legislature."
Leno said he was one of the first two openly gay men ever elected to the Assembly, and the very first gay man elected to the state Senate.
Leno's legislative interests aren't limited to gay rights. He says he's also interested in schools, single-payer health care, renewable energy, better transportation and safer streets.
But civil rights is forefront in his mind.
"I've always felt very passionate, recognizing that we have yet to fulfill the promises of our Constitution, which is to provide equal protection under the law for all citizens," Leno said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.