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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 20 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 25
A historic day for our judiciary
Section One
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A historic day for our judiciary

by Viktor Bogatko - SGN Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, June 17, the Senate made history by confirming two openly Gay African American judges to the federal judiciary.

Darrin Gayles was nominated by President Obama and confirmed unanimously by the Senate to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He is the first openly Gay African American man to be confirmed as a lifetime appointed federal judge in our nation's history.

His vote came just after the Senate confirmed Staci Yandle to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, by a vote of 52-44. She will be the first African American Lesbian federal judge in two decades, the second one in the nation's history, the first African American to serve on her court, and the first openly Gay lifetime appointed federal judge in Illinois.

'Never before in the course of the history of our state has there been an Article III federal judge who is openly a member of the LGBT community,' Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said ahead of Yandle's vote. 'In short, Staci Yandle's confirmation marks another important milestone in America's journey toward equality of opportunity.'

The Senate also confirmed Salvador Mendoza to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington by a vote of 92-4, making him the first Hispanic federal judge to serve on that court.

The historic confirmations come amid an equally historic string of confirmations during President Obama's time in office that will leave the federal judiciary more diverse than ever before.

President Obama's judiciary diversity record is unmatched by any other president in U.S. history. He has appointed more openly Gay judges than any other president, more female judges than any other president, more Hispanic judges than any other president, more Asian American judges than all the presidents combined, and the first ever Native American female federal judge in the nation's history.

Presidential counsel Neil Eggleston called it 'a historic day for our judiciary' in a blog post.

'These milestones are important not because these judges will consider cases differently, but because a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system.'

While Gay judges aren't necessarily going to rule in favor of the LGBT community, it's a good bet they will be more inclined to do so, as witnessed in both the California and Oregon marriage equality cases, in which Gay judges ruled in favor of marriage equality.

Still, according to Eric Lesh of Lambda Legal, most of the nearly 900 top federal judges remain white men, an impediment in improving the quality of justice and boosting public confidence in the courts.

'Today, it is more important than ever that our courts reflect the growing diversity of our country, but we have a long way to go,' Lesh said in a written statement.

Though there is much more work to be done, these historic milestones are trending fairly well with history making events taking place all over the country over the past couple of years proving America is becoming a more just and accepting place for its LGBT community.

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