Scroll To Top
News

Joe Biden celebrates 200th judicial confirmation paving the way for more LGBTQ+ judges

queer federal judges Nicole Berner Beth Robinson Charlotte Sweeney
Courtesy U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin's office via wikipedia; Vermont Bar Association; Charlotte N. Sweeney via LinkedIn

His administration hopes to set a new record soon.

Cwnewser

President Joe Biden celebrated the confirmation of his 200th federal judge on Wednesday, outpacing both of his predecessors’ records of judicial confirmations at this point in their presidency. Biden has focused on putting forward a host of diverse judges, including nearly a dozen LGBTQ+ judges.

Magistrate Judge Angela Martinez, a former assistant U.S. attorney, was approved by the U.S. Senate by a 66-28 vote on Wednesday afternoon to become a federal judge in the District of Arizona, one day after it approved the appointment of Krissa Lanham to the same court. Martinez and Lanham were nominated in March by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an out bisexual lawmaker not seeking reelection, who was elected as a Democrat but switched to Independent in December 2022.

In a statement touting the milestone, Biden pointed out that 64 percent of his judicial appointees are women, and 62 percent are people of color.

“These judges are exceptionally well-qualified. They come from every walk of life, and collectively, they form the most diverse group of judicial appointees ever put forward by a President,” Biden said. “Before their appointment to the bench, they worked in every field of law—from labor lawyers fighting for working people to civil rights lawyers fighting to protect the right to vote. And despite differences in background and experience, they are all committed to principles that are at the core of our democracy: independence, freedom, and liberty.”

On the influence these judges hold over fundamental rights, Biden said, “They hear cases that decide whether women have the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions; whether Americans have the freedom to cast their ballots; whether workers have the freedom to unionize and make a living wage for their families; and whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”

White House Senior Counsel Phil Brest explained the significance of reaching 200 seated judges in an interview with The Advocate.

“Once we hit 200, the president will have appointed roughly 22 percent to 23 percent of all life-tenured federal judges,” Brest said. “That’s an incredible accomplishment that has a tremendous impact on the everyday lives of Americans.”

He added: “The president has put forward the most diverse slate of nominees ever, both demographically and professionally.”

According to Brest, 11 of the 200 confirmed judges openly identify as LGBTQ+, matching the number appointed during former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.

Brest noted the intentionality behind these appointments, mentioning that Biden and Senate Democrats have worked closely with home-state senators to ensure diverse representation. He cited the example of Nicole Berner, the first openly LGBTQ+ judge on the Fourth Circuit, covering Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia, and noted the importance of such representation in courts that historically lacked it.

Biden’s appointments have included several other historic firsts. Beth Robinson is the first lesbian to serve as a federal appeals court judge, and Colorado District Court judge Charlotte Sweeney is the first LGBTQ+ woman appointed west of the Mississippi River, Brest said. He credited a collaborative effort with Senate Democrats in advancing nominees, particularly the 11 confirmed LGBTQ+ judges.

The Biden administration has confirmed 127 women, nearly two and a half times the number appointed by his predecessor, and a record number of judges from various backgrounds. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, is perhaps the most visible of Biden’s judicial appointments. According to the White House, 13 Black women have been appointed to circuit courts, surpassing the combined total of all previous presidents. Seven Hispanic judges have been appointed to the circuit court, the highest number for any administration. Additionally, the White House notes that Biden appointed a record number of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander judges.

Brest attributed the success of Biden’s judicial nominations to a cooperative and bipartisan approach. He noted daily engagement with Republican offices and a strong commitment from Democrats to move judicial nominations forward expeditiously. This has helped close the gap between Republican and Democratic commitments to moving judges through the confirmation process.

The Advocate inquired about the administration’s plans for additional LGBTQ+ judicial nominations. Brest expressed optimism, saying that there is at least one LGBTQ+ candidate currently in the vetting process.

“Assuming this candidate is ultimately nominated, we are positioned to set a new record for LGBTQ+ appointments,” he said. “Where we are putting forward LGBTQ judges, they are immensely qualified. We are not putting them forward because they are LGBTQ."

But, he pointed to the importance of appointing LGBTQ+ judges.

"In the past, [being LGBTQ+] would have been disqualifying," he said. "The president has done an outstanding job making it clear that there is no path closed off to anyone."

Cwnewser
Advocate Channel - HuluOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).