Before becoming a public official, Achtenberg worked for more than 15 years as a civil rights attorney, nonprofit director and legal educator. Her activity included co-founding the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Achtenberg unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the California State Assembly in 1988. She was elected as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1990 and resigned in 1993 when she was appointed Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by President Bill Clinton. Achtenberg left the post in 1995 to run for mayor of San Francisco. She served as Senior Vice President for Public Policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce until January 2005. In 2000, she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of California State University by Governor Gray Davis, becoming chair of the Board in May 2006.
On January 26, 2011, President Barack Obama named Achtenberg to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
Achtenberg's father immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union, while her mother came from Quebec.
After graduating from Morningside High School in Inglewood, California, Achtenberg went to UCLA, then transferred to and graduated from University of California, Berkeley. She began law school in San Francisco at University of California, Hastings College of the Law, before transferring to and receiving her Juris Doctorate from the University of Utah.
Achtenberg has a son, Benjie, whom she raised with her former partner, Mary C. Morgan.
The Democratic National Convention in New York City marked a coming of age for the movement, with 133 lesbian and gay delegates and alternates inside Madison Square Garden—and a winning candidate supporting their cause. In another testament to the establishmenfs new commitment to equal rights, the president of CNN, the executive editor of The Los Angeles Times, and theFurther Readings:
publisher of The New York Times all served as honorary cohosts of a reception held by the National Lesbian and Gay Iournalists Association on the eve of the convention.
Roberta Achtenberg, a former head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who had become a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors- and an early Clinton supporter—and Bob Hattoy, a gay environmental lobbyist suffering from AIDS, both addressed the convention. When Hattoy exhorted the hall to “`vote this year as if our lives depended on it,” there were tears in the eyes of many delegates. And after a last minute intervention by the gay adviser David Mixner, Clinton included gays in his list of those groups deemed outcasts in the politics of division.
Outside of the military, Bill Clinton completed the decades-long process of prohibiting discrimination against gay people in every other federal agency. He also appointed nearly a hundred open lesbians and gay men to his administration, including Roberta Achtenberg,
who became an assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Despite lesse Helms’s attacks on her as a “damn lesbian,” she was easily confirmed by the Senate by a vote of fifty-eight to thirty-one. --The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser.
Freedom to Differ: The Shaping of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle for Civil Rights by Diane Helene Miller
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: NYU Press (August 1, 1998)
Amazon: Freedom to Differ: The Shaping of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle for Civil Rights
Many of us have grown up with the language of civil rights, yet rarely consider how the construction of civil rights claims affects those who are trying to attain them. Diane Miller examines arguments lesbians and gay men make for civil rights, revealing the ways these arguments are both progressive--in terms of helping to win court cases seeking basic human rights--and limiting--in terms of framing representations of gay men and lesbians.
Miller incorporates case studies of lesbians in the military and in politics into her argument. She discusses in detail the experiences of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was dishonorably discharged from the National Guard after 27 years of service when she revealed that she was a lesbian, and Roberta Achtenberg, who was nominated by Clinton for the job of Assistant Director of Housing and Urban Development and became the first gay or lesbian to face the confirmation process. Drawing on these cases and their outcomes, Miller evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of privileging civil rights strategies in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights.
The Lesbian Parenting Book: A Guide to Creating Families and Raising Children by Ph.D. D.Merilee Clunis & G. Dorsey Green
Paperback: 424 pages
Publisher: Seal Press; 2nd edition (May 2003)
Amazon: The Lesbian Parenting Book
Written by two experienced lesbian therapists and parents, this second completely revised edition of The Lesbian Parenting Book has been updated to reflect the contemporary cultural and political landscape, as well as current trends in parenting. Drawing on the real-life experiences of lesbian families and the latest information from family specialists, the authors present detailed, chapter-by-chapter information on each stage of parenthood and child development. New material includes information on circumcision, Internet safety, legal hoops for noncustodial parents, the facts about late-in-life pregnancies, moms working inside and outside of the home, and more. An essential text for every lesbian who is involved in—or considering—raising a family.
Lesbian Mothers: Accounts of Gender in American Culture (Anthropology of Contemporary Issues) by Ellen Lewin
Paperback: 233 pages
Publisher: Cornell University Press (May 1993)
Amazon: Lesbian Mothers: Accounts of Gender in American Culture
Within a society that long considered "lesbian motherhood" a contradiction in terms, what are the experiences of lesbian mothers today? In this illuminating book, lesbian mothers tell their stories in their own words--how they became mothers; how they see their relationships with their children, relatives, lovers and friends; and how they deal with threats to custody.
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