Openly Gay Judge William Thomas Nominated to Fed Bench, But Should We Still Say Openly Gay?

President Obama is wasting no time since being reelected for a second term. An announcement from the White House named Judge William Thomas as nominee to Florida’s Southern District for United States District Court. Judge Thomas, an openly gay African American, would be the first gay African American with a lifelong tenure as a federal judge.

President Obama released a statement noting the diverse group of nominees this year:

“They … represent my continued commitment to ensure that the judiciary resembles the nation it serves.”These individuals have demonstrated the talent, expertise, and fair-mindedness Americans expect and deserve from their judicial system. I am grateful for their willingness to serve and confident that they will  by Text-Enhance">apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity. Too many of our courtrooms stand empty. I hope the Senate will promptly consider all of my nominees and ensure justice for everyday Americans.”

Judge Thomas will join two other out judges (Judge Pamela Ki Mai Chen of New York and Judge Michael McShane of Oregon) who are awaiting congressional approval.

While I feel like this is great news, I came across an article that questions why the term “openly gay” is relevant when using it to describe elected officials and politicians  Keep in mind, this is from Ontario Canada, a country that affords marriage equality and full equal rights for its citizens. But, as alwaysm I love to speculate and I had to question this statement:

I mention this because I’m thinking it’s time to ditch the phrase “openly gay,” and in fact stop referring to sexual orientation altogether when we’re talking about politicians and public figures.

Why is it relevant? What do we get out of knowing whether a candidate is gay or straight? We live in a province where gay marriage is legal and hundreds of thousands of citizens, gay and straight (who aren’t Mayor Rob Ford) revel in Toronto’s Pride parade.

Even in the American heartland, long-held prejudices fanned by the religious right are melting away. In last week’s  by Text-Enhance">election, gay marriage initiatives passed in several states (although it’s still constitutionally banned in 31) and Wisconsin voters elected Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator.

Is the above statement naivety of what’s really going on in this country or does the rest of the world believes this? We as a community are still in an uphill battle for marriage equality and complete repeal of DOMA. We’re still facing the ongoing challenges of making sure our government protects our jobs with initiatives like ENDA (Employee Non Discrimination Act) on a federal level so it ensures that LGBT can’t be fired because of our sexual orientation.

Now, I know the intention of the author was to argue that sexuality shouldn’t matter, and I vehemently agree with that. But we are still facing so much opposition. Have we made progress? Definitely. But I feel that we should be so much farther ahead than where we are right now.

You see, terminology like this is still very much needed. We still have to show that sexuality does not predicate performance or capability. So yes, visibility is vital. Visibility of not only African-Americans or LGBT in higher political standing -- but all minority communities who have been discouraged in the past -- is always a good thing.

So, until we reach full equality, we need to recognize achievements of LGBT individuals like Judge Thomas. And celebrate it.


Popular Video