The First Openly Gay Black Male Judge?

Albert Lin, DiversityInc, February 14, 2014

President Obama nominated five people for federal judgeships on Wednesday as the White House touted the President’s “unprecedented commitment expanding the diversity of our nation’s highest courts.”

Of the five, only one, Paul Byron, is a white male. The others are two women (Beth Bloom and Cheryl Ann Krause), a Latino (Carlos Eduardo Mendoza) and a Black man (Darrin Gayles). If confirmed, Gayles would become the nation’s first openly gay Black man to serve as a federal judge. (Obama withdrew the nomination of another candidate for that distinction, William Thomas, when Thomas was blocked by Florida Senator Marco Rubio.)

DarrinGayles

Darrin Gayles

Byron, Bloom, Krause and Gayles were all nominated for positions in Florida, seemingly addressing complaints by the Congressional Black Caucus about the lack of diversity among judges, especially in Southern states. However, The Hill reported that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was greeted with criticism when she met with members of the CBC on Wednesday to discuss its concerns that Obama has not been vocal enough when Congress has stonewalled his nominees, leaving states with judges who don’t represent the diversity of their populations.

Georgia Congressman David Scott brought up two nominees to Jarrett: one who once supported a bill to keep the Confederate battle emblem as part of Georgia’s state flag and another who led the defense of the state’s voter-ID law.

“I asked her specifically that they should be [withdrawn]. She just didn’t say anything,” said Scott. “The President should have said, ‘There’s absolutely no way I want to go down in history as putting these kinds of people into federal court nominations against my own African-American [people].’ … It’s a tragedy.”

Meanwhile, WhiteHouse.gov put up a comprehensive infographic headlined “This Is the First Time Our Judicial Pool Has Been This Diverse.” It points out that of the 63 judicial nominees currently awaiting confirmation, 27 are women, 12 are Black, five are Latino, four are Asian, three are openly LGBT and one is American Indian.

The graphic also highlights Obama’s record with judicial nominees in each of the demographic groups:

• Under Obama, six circuit courts and 12 district courts now have their first female judge.

• Obama has appointed 17 Black women to federal courts, more than any other President.

• Obama already has had 27 Latino judges confirmed, more than President Clinton’s two-term total (25).

• Obama has raised the number of Asian federal judges from eight to 21.

• Obama has nominated 12 openly LGBT judges and had seven confirmed, when only one (Deborah Batts of New York) had been confirmed before he took office.

• If confirmed, nominee Diane Humetewa would be the first female American Indian federal judge and the only active American Indian federal judge.

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