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First openly lesbian legislator in Alabama trying to stay low key

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Other than a small photograph of Patricia Todd with her partner on a shelf above her desk, there's nothing in Todd's small Statehouse office to indicate she is Alabama's first openly gay legislator.

Likewise, in her first month in office, Todd has remained low-key, attending committee meetings, studying the issues and doing little to remind anyone of her high-profile election last year.

It's not that the 51-year-old Todd wants to hide the fact that she is a lesbian. She said she will speak out on issues related to the gay community — such as a bill to make it a hate crime to assault a person because of their sexual orientation.

"I will voice my opinion and speak personally to other representatives on issues like that where you're talking about me," Todd said.

Focusing on district

But for now, she said, she wants to concentrate on passing legislation that will benefit her diverse district, which ranges from some of Birmingham's poorest neighborhoods to some of its most prosperous.

Her first priority, she said, is to pass legislation establishing a state minimum wage.

"I like to say I'm a representative who happens to be gay. I'm not the gay representative," Todd said.

She said she has been pleasantly surprised at how well she has been accepted by her fellow legislators.

"They are treating me like everybody else," Todd said.

Todd's earnest effort to learn how the Legislature works has not gone unnoticed.

'Working hard'

"Patricia Todd is very involved in the process and is working hard to represent her district,' House Speaker Seth Hammett said.

Hammett said Todd's vote on a legislative pay raise — she was one of only seven Democrats to vote against a 62 percent pay hike — showed that it will be hard to label her.

"I think she's a person who's going to think for herself," Hammett said.

While most Democratic leaders supported the Legislature's first pay increase since 1991. Todd said she just couldn't do it.

"I couldn't in good conscience represent so many people who live in poverty and vote myself a pay raise as one of my first actions in the Legislature," Todd said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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