February 19, 2020

Statement to Newsom: Appoint First Openly LGBTQ+ Justice

In 1979, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Stephen Lachs, the first openly gay judge to serve in California, to the San Francisco Superior Court.  Since then, LGBTQ+ representation in the California judiciary has made modest strides. Last year, a report by the Judicial Council of California identified 59 LGBTQ+ trial court judges in the state, which accounted for 3.5 percent of the total judges included in the report. In the appellate courts, only two judges identify as LGBTQ with Victoria Kolakowski serving as the sole transgender voice on the bench. But a member of the LGBTQ+ community has yet to serve on the very influential California Supreme Court. That time has come.

In this respect, California has not been a leader.  Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and twelve U.S. states have all appointed LGBTQ+ members to their highest courts.  Governor Gavin Newsom, now has the opportunity to make history by filling the vacancy on the California Supreme Court left by outgoing Justice Ming Chin with its first LGBTQ+ Justice.

The Stonewall Democratic Club strongly urges him to do so.

Stonewall is not suggesting diversity for the sake of diversity. Rather, it is critical that a body that makes important decisions that affect all Californians reflects the diverse points of view encompassed by the people of our state. 

“For LGBTQ+ people, who have for so long been marginalized and even persecuted by our legal system, having our life experiences be part of the deliberations of the California Supreme Court is particularly important,” said Stonewall President Lester Aponte.

“And for young LGBTQ+ individuals who aspire to the top of the legal profession, it would send a powerful message that, in California, anything is possible,” continued Aponte, who himself is a practicing LGBTQ+ attorney.

The Stonewall Democratic Club, therefore, urges Governor Newsom to make the long-overdue appointment of the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer judge to the California Supreme Court.