First Out Lesbian Latina Confirmed As Federal Judge

This month, the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Nitza Quiñones Alejandro, the first openly lesbian Latina federal judge.

Quiñones will take her place on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, along with fellow nominee Jeffrey Schmehl.

Prior to this appointment Quiñones presided over the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, a position she’d held since 1991, where she presided over both criminal and civil cases.

Quiñones was born in Puerto Rico and grew up as part of a military family. She earned her law degree at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1975, and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with honors, from the University of Puerto Rico.

During confirmation hearings Quiñones put an emphasis on her sense of integrity and how vital it is to the work of a judge, saying,  ”In exercising integrity, the judge must also be a good listener, patient, fair, impartial, courteous, reasonable, ethical, and decisive. I believe I possess these qualities.”

While it might have been that Quiñones’ personal characteristics as a convergence of several minorities could have made her an unfavorable choice for some of Congress’ more conservative members, Quiñones in fact garnered the early support of junior US Senator for Pennsylvania Pat Toomey–a Tea Party Republican–who cosponsored the nomination and is on record as saying:

In her 21 years on the bench, Nitza Quiñones Alejandro has presided over many cases incorporating different facets of the law. In addition to her extensive experience in the courtroom, she has also remained active in her community through her work with schools and mentoring summer law interns.

The appointment has also been praised by leading LGBT rights groups with Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, saying, “We are very pleased to see yet another highly qualified, openly-LGBT nominee confirmed to the federal bench — particularly a woman of color who helps reflect the diversity of the American people in the judiciary.”

The Human Rights Campaign previously noted that Quiñones is the “eighth openly gay life-tenured federal court judicial nominee” made by the Obama administration. Prior to Obama’s presidency only one openly gay individual had been confirmed to serve with lifetime tenure in the federal courts.

The administration has also appointed more openly gay and lesbian ambassadors than any previous administration with another three added this month.

HBO Executive James Costos will now act as ambassador to Spain, Obama fundraiser Rufus Gifford is to become ambassador to Denmark, and Daniel Baer will work as Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Another openly gay judicial nominee, Stuart Delery, awaits confirmation for a position as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, a role he is already fulfilling on an interim basis.

Delery’s nomination received a boost from Republican former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who may be more familiar to readers as the lead attorney for the Republican House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Clement signed a letter along with 15 other former government officials to express “strong support” for Delery’s confirmation.

While Congress does of course continue to play politics over Obama’s nominations increasingly, it seems, a nominee being openly LGBT will not of itself be regarded as a barrier to political or judicial appointment, and that is something worth celebrating.


Image credit: Thinkstock.


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D4 years ago

It's so good to see all these steps, though small, when put together will add up to giant strides towards eqality. It's about time.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia4 years ago

I hope she does her job properly by using wisdom and insight.

Mark Botermuc
Mark p.muc4 years ago

Thanks ...

Mark Botermuc
Mark p.muc4 years ago

ty ...

May L.
May L.4 years ago

Great, thanks for sharing.

John B.
John B4 years ago

Thanks Steve for the article and sharing the good news regarding Judge Alejandro advancement.

Lori Ann Hone
Lori Hone4 years ago

Another big step towards equal rights/treatment for all!

Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago


Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider4 years ago

Clearly the best person for the job!