Lesbian Attorney Becomes Federal Magistrate Judge in Illinois

Mary E. Rowland was sworn in this week, becoming one of just a few openly LGBT federal judges in the nation.

BY Trudy Ring

November 16 2012 5:20 PM ET

Mary E. Rowland

Mary E. Rowland was sworn in Wednesday as a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, making her one of the few out LGBT federal judges in the nation, Windy City Times reports.

Rowland, a veteran civil rights attorney, was sworn in at the Dirksen Courthouse in Chicago, with her wife, lawyer Julie Justicz, and their children, Thomas and Lilly, at her side.

Magistrate judges are federal trial judges appointed for eight-year terms by the life-tenured judges of U.S. district courts. Life-tenured judges are nominated by the U.S. president and confirmed by the Senate; President Obama has picked several out LGBT judges for the life-tenured positions, including William Thomas, whose nomination was announced this week.

Rowland has been a partner in the law firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym. In one of the civil rights cases she worked on, African-American firefighter applicants won a suit against the city of Chicago over discriminatory hiring practices. “I have been involved in what some would call controversial cases,” Rowland told Windy City Times.

Rowland, who has done volunteer work for Lambda Legal, was named to the 2012 Illinois Super Lawyer list. She is a member of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and serves on the board of directors of the Federal Bar Association.

There’s additional good news about the judiciary for LGBT Chicagoans: Cook County Circuit Court judge Susan McDunn, who has been criticized for her handling of custody cases involving lesbian parents, has resigned, according to Windy City Times. McDunn sought the advice of the antigay Family Research Council in one of the cases, in the 1990s. More recently, she claimed to be a party to “secret lawsuits” involving Chicago political and religious leaders, who she said were conspiring against her.

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