Broward County Judge Robert Lee is certainly a man of distinction.

As the first openly gay man to be appointed to the state court bench in Florida, Lee is a groundbreaking figure in the LGBT movement. Before being appointed to a judgeship by then Governor Lawton Chiles, Lee earned a reputation as an attorney who fought against discrimination.

He fondly recalls the legal battles he took part in for the organization — Broward United Against Discrimination. It was Lee who researched the winning brief in a case that went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Lee said his “life changing” experience came in 1993 when he joined thousands in the Gay & Lesbian March on Washington.

“That’s when I realized there were people like me,” he said.

Lee grew up in Jacksonville, graduated from Trinity Christian and received his bachelor’s degree in education from Jacksonville University. He is a product of the University of Florida School of Law and has presided over 331 jury trails. Judge Lee is currently the only county judge who has served in every division from general civil to violent crime.

Lee has 14 nieces and nephews. His mother is from Mexico, which prompted the Miami Herald to declare in a headline upon his appointment, “Governor appoints state’s first gay, Hispanic judge.”

“I still have the paper,” Lee said.

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