President Obama Nominates Gay African-American Judge To Federal Courts

William Thomas.jpgToday Barack Obama nominated his first openly gay African-American judicial nominee for the federal courts.

Judge William L. Thomas has been put forth for consideration for the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He’s one of seven judges nominated today and, if confirmed will be the second out African-American judge on the federal bench.

“These individuals have demonstrated the talent, expertise, and fair-mindedness Americans expect and deserve from their judicial system,” President Obama said in a statement. “They also represent my continued commitment to ensure that the judiciary resembles the nation it serves.”

Judge William L. Thomas has served as a Circuit Judge in Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit since 2005, presiding over both civil and criminal matters. Prior to that, he was an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Florida, representing underprivileged clients in criminal cases. He received his B.A. from Washington and Jefferson College in 1991 and his J.D. from Temple University School of Law in 1994.

Thomas is the eighth out judge nominated to the federal bench by Obama, but the first African-American. Only three of those nominees have been confirmed. Edward DuMont withdrew his  name after waiting a year-and-a-half for his first nomination hearing.

“Today’s announcement… reflects the President’s historic commitment to advancing a diverse judiciary that looks like America,” Nancy Zirkin of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement. “If confirmed, these nominees would bring more women, minorities, and openly gay judges to courts to better reflect the nation they serve.”

If Thomas and the other nominees are confirmed, they could also help resolve the crisis caused by more than 100 judicial vacancies across the country.  C’mon, Congress, get to it!


Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #courts #federalcourt #gayjudges stories and more


  • jerry_pritikin

    I wish that after his name the word Qualified, then gay Africa-American to describe President Obama’s nomination. The fact that he qualifies is most important fact. That is why he was nominated in the first place. This is the 21 Century, and to be politically correct is important. Do we say white American when someone who is white is nominated? Of course not… and the same should apply for all nominees.

    I believe it won’t matter to him if you come up in his court gay or straight,black, white or pink, or if you are right handed or left handed. He will apply the laws to everyone equally, and we should not expect anything less from him or any sitting Judge.

  • jwrappaport

    @jerry_pritikin: In the words of Bill Lumbergh, “I’m gonna go ahead and have to, uh, disagree with you on that.” Both functionally or philosophically.

    To refer to a judicial nominee’s whiteness or heterosexuality would be as strange and unnecessary as distinguishing one for being sighted or able-bodied (as opposed to blind or handicapped): It is clear where the baseline is in America. Problematic as these signifiers of “otherness” often are, they exist partly because of where privilege and power lie in our society, but also partly because it’s just functional to assume a baseline that conforms to characteristics possessed by the majority of people in our society.

  • jwrappaport

    @jerry_pritikin: As a philosophical matter, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with sexual or racial consciousness. It’s fashionable to be colorblind and sex-unaware in contemporary educated society, but I think it can be very problematic in that it arguably requires the “others” (that is, people like us) to conform and abandon part of what makes them unique. A truly post-sexual culture that makes no distinction based on sexual orientation would ignore the fact that there are profound, meaningful differences in the experiences of straight and gay men (to use one example).

    Those differences and experiences help make me who I am, and while I’d like to think that it is the content of my character and work that speaks most for me, it would be naive and wrong for me to say that my sexual “otherness” doesn’t inform my worldview or conceptions of social justice – it’s a huge part of how and where I see myself in our society – it is thus an immensely important part of who I am.

    I agree that he should apply the laws equally (a loaded statement that demands an entirely separate debate), but it would be foolish to think that a gay man of color born in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement who came of age at the height of the AIDS crisis doesn’t have a worldview and conception of social justice that is at least partly shaped by his racial and sexual identities.

  • Mooz

    I hope that I’ll live the day when ‘African’ is not mentioned for people who come from families, living for many generations in America. I can see he has dark skin, but what does that imply? Or has he indeed been brought up in Africa? What part of Africa? What social class? It all means nothing.

    The same goes for ‘proud’ to be gay. Don’t be ashamed. Be who you are. Don’t fall into that trap where others decide what kind of person you are.

    And please, people of color: Don’t call yourselves n*gger. It is reserved to be used by nasty people. Don’t confuse those, who don’t understand that concept and think that by using that word they belong to the in-crowd.

  • Mooz

    @jwrappaport: “Those differences and experiences help make me who I am…”

    But that only applies to you. Many gay man use those experiences to do the exact opposite. Have you seen those GOProuders?

  • jwrappaport

    @Mooz: I didn’t say those experiences are positive for everyone, just that they’re a part of who we are – the good and the bad. I would say the GOProuders doth protest too much: They support an organization that openly refuses to see them as moral equals and would enshrine that inequality in law. I can think of few other reasons for their almost fetishistic conservatism other than a profound sense of self-loathing that makes it all but impossible to come to terms with being gay. It can’t be their platform, which is essentially a self-contradicting and ahistorical collection of libertarian buzzwords.

    As an aside, the GOProud website lists as one of the group’s missions: “Standing strong against radical regimes that refuse to recognize the basic human rights of gays and lesbians, women and religious minorities.”

Comments are closed.