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Obama nominates openly gay, African American judge to federal bench

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama sent the names of seven judges to the Senate Wednesday as his nominees for currently vacant slots in the federal judiciary, including an openly gay African-American nominee.

Judge William L. Thomas was nominated Wednesday to an opening on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

William Thomas

According to Judge Thomas’ biography, released Wednesday by the White House, Thomas has served as a circuit judge in Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit since 2005, presiding over civil as well as criminal cases.

Before his elevation to the 11th Circuit, Thomas was an Assistant United States Public Defender for the Southern District of Florida and also spent time as an assistant public defender for greater Miami-Dade County, Florida. He is a 1994 graduate of the Temple University School of Law.

In the statement released by the White House, the president called for immediate consideration of the nominees including Judge Thomas citing the fact that too many courts are lacking judges.

“These individuals have demonstrated the talent, expertise, and fair-mindedness Americans expect and deserve from their judicial system,” Obama said.

“They also represent my continued commitment to ensure that the judiciary resembles the nation it serves. I am grateful for their willingness to serve and confident that they will apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity.”

“Today’s announcement also reflects the President’s historic commitment to advancing a diverse judiciary that looks like America,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement. “If confirmed, these nominees would bring more women, minorities, and openly gay judges to courts to better reflect the nation they serve.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Thomas would become only the second out LGBT African-American to serve as a United States District Court judge.

Deborah Batts, nominated by then President Bill Clinton in 1994, to the District Court for the Southern District of New York, was the first openly LGBT African-American judge appointed to the federal judiciary.

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