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U.S. Will Not Appoint First Black Gay Male Federal Judge

Washington, D.C. – January 9, 2014 – In a puzzling turn of events, Judge William Thomas, a judge for Florida’s 11th judicial circuit in Miami-Dade, will not become the United States’ first black, gay male federal judge.  Elected to his current post in 2005, Thomas was first nominated by President Obama in November 2012 to a seat on the Miami-based U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The decision of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in September 2013 to withdraw his support from Judge Thomas–whom he previously recommended–has led to a complete halt of his nomination process. 

It was apparent that the White House pulled the nomination of Judge Thomas when his name was not resubmitted with other presidential appointments.  Thomas was the only Presidential nominee (out of 55 pending) whose name was not resubmitted to the Senate last week for confirmation. Under arcane U.S. Senate rules, one senator can unilaterally block the Senate from considering a nominee from his or her home state by refusing to return a “blue slip” of support to the full Senate. According to a White House official, President Obama decided not to re-nominate Thomas in light of Rubio’s objection.

Thomas, one of 10 children in his family raised by a single mother, would have made history by becoming the first openly gay black man to serve as a federal judge. The ascension of Judge Thomas to the federal bench would have filled a nearly two-year vacancy. According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, the vacancy has been deemed a “judicial emergency.”

"Senator Rubio's initial support and subsequent opposition to the nomination of Judge William Thomas baffles my mind," said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. "I am beyond disappointed by the actions of my home state U.S. Senator. Rubio has allowed partisan politics to kill the nomination of Judge Thomas, a man who has dedicated his life to fulfilling the judicial undertaking of the justice system.   This brand of political theatrics is unfit for the U.S. Senate, and is beneath the dignity of Judge Thomas."

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.