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Just a few years ago, Broward County could boast having 6 openly LGBT judges on its state court bench.  Now, with the recent retirement of Judge Lisa Porter, we have only three.  And if a North Broward traffic ticket attorney has his way, by January 2019, we will have only two.

Our longest serving openly gay jurist, Judge Robert W. Lee, was appointed by Democratic Florida Governor Lawton Chiles more than two decades ago.  Notwithstanding a long record of dedicated service to the people of Broward County, he has for the first time obtained an opponent in his re-election bid.  I have personally known Judge Lee since 1998, when he afforded me the opportunity to serve as his very first judicial clerk. Judge Lee has been a mentor to me and others. He is someone I am proud to call a friend, and I believe it is imperative that we keep him in the courthouse.

Why should LGBT voters of Broward County return Judge Lee to the bench?

-  He's a widely respected judge, demonstrated by his recently being given the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence, given to only a single County Court Judge statewide every year.

-  He is the Chair of Judicial Education for all County Court Judges in the entire state, insuring that LGBT issues are routinely addressed in education programs, including recent and upcoming programs in fairness/diversity/sensitivity, domestic violence, and LGBT teens.

-  He has long served as a resource for other judges statewide on LGBT issues.

-  He required all Broward traffic hearing officers to participate in a transgender and gender identity education program.

-  He gladly remained at the courthouse well past midnight on the first day marriage equality became legal in Florida, helping to insure that all LGBT couples wanting to get married on that first day could in fact do so.  For his role in this historic event, he was awarded the Millennium Award in 2016 by Pride Honors.

-  He was tapped by the American Bar Association as being one of only two judges in the State of Florida to participate in the LGBT teen foster care listening forum in Jacksonville.

-  He has been appointed to the Florida Supreme Court Guardianship Workgroup, insuring the issues involving LGBT individuals are considered when proposing reform measures.

-  He has stayed active in the Broward LGBT community by involvement permitted under judicial ethics rules, for which he was awarded a Volunteer of the Year Award by the Stonewall National Museum and Archives in 2017.  He is a proud and public supporter of numerous other LGBT organizations, including the Pride Center, Our Fund, The Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida, and SunServe.

The election is August 28.  Let's do what we can to return OUR County Court Judge Robert Lee to the Broward County bench.

Justin Flippen is Vice Mayor of Wilton Manors, a member of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Network (GLLN), and a lifelong resident of Broward County