Biden administration ties record for number of confirmed LGBTQ judges in federal courts

Biden administration ties record for number of confirmed LGBTQ judges in federal courts - Opinion and Analysis - News

A Milestone in Judicial Diversity: Eleven Newly Appointed LGBTQ Federal Judges Under the Biden Administration

The recent confirmation of Nicole Berner and Melissa DuBose to the federal judiciary signifies a pivotal moment for LGBTQ representation and the Biden administration. With their appointments, the number of openly LGBTQ federal judges in the United States has reached an unprecedented eleven since the beginning of the current administration.

According to data compiled by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a prominent advocacy group, this figure parallels the record number set during the Obama administration. This development comes as civil rights activists have continuously emphasized the importance of diversifying the federal bench to align with the demographic makeup of the nation, particularly in regards to LGBTQ judges.

Historically speaking, Deborah A. Batts, who is believed to be the first openly LGBTQ federal judge in the US, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. During the Trump administration, only two individuals who identified as LGBTQ were confirmed for federal judgeships.

Lena Zwarensteyn, senior director of the fair courts program at The Leadership Conference, expressed her belief that efforts to establish a more inclusive and equitable judiciary must persist. “The essential task of establishing a fair and impartial justice system that caters to all individuals in our society is far from complete,” she remarked. “We require not only more openly LGBTQ judges but also those who identify as transgender or nonbinary, and those hailing from various underrepresented communities.”

The current count of openly LGBTQ judges on US federal courts stands at 23. However, considering there were 814 active federal judgeships as of March 12 (as per News Finder analysis using Federal Judicial Center data), the representation of LGBTQ individuals in the judiciary remains somewhat limited. While these judges make up approximately 3% of the total federal bench, a recent Gallup survey revealed that over 7.6% of adults in the US identify as LGBTQ – a figure which has more than doubled compared to just a decade ago.

To date, no openly transgender or nonbinary individual has been nominated or confirmed for a lifetime federal judgeship in the US, as per The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas and author of “Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation,” elucidated that having LGBTQ+ judges does not automatically ensure a specific judicial outcome. Nevertheless, he emphasized that judges from underrepresented communities bring their unique experiences to the bench.

“Research shows that having diverse individuals on the federal bench results in judgments that deviate from the typical cisgender, White male decision-making,” Haider-Markel said. “We can anticipate similar patterns in the decision-making of LGBTQ judges due to their unique lived experiences.”

Despite progress, the federal bench remains predominantly male and White. Although the gender ratio in the US is relatively balanced, men constitute over 60% of federal judicial appointments. White individuals make up roughly three-quarters of the US population and nearly two-thirds of the federal bench. Hispanic or Latino judges account for 11% of the federal judiciary, despite comprising 19% of the American population. Black Americans make up 14% of the populace and 16% of the federal bench.

Upon her confirmation, Melissa DuBose became the 100th Black woman in history to secure a lifetime judicial appointment. Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, stressed the significance of this achievement: “The Senate confirmation of Melissa DuBose holds importance because Black women and openly LGBTQ individuals have historically been underrepresented in federal court service, while relying on these courts to uphold their rights.”

Wiley further added, “This representation will inspire more Black women and LGBTQ individuals to pursue legal careers and aspire for positions on the federal bench.”