First Openly Lesbian Federal Judge Passes

Deborah A. Batts. Photo via UCLA, YouTube.

Federal District Judge Deborah A Batts, the first openly lesbian federal judge when she was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President Bill Clinton in in 1994, died Sunday, February 2, at the age of 72. Judge Batts’ nomination by President Clinton to the federal bench in 1994 was a watershed moment for openly LGBT people in the legal profession. 

Sharon McGowan, Legal Director and Chief Strategy Officer at Lambda Legal noted that Batts, a former prosecutor, was "an inspiration to so many in the legal world; an individual who was the embodiment of the highest standards of professional excellence." 

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. 

More than 25 years after Judge Batts’ historic confirmation, there has only ever been one other black lesbian elevated to the federal bench.  McGowan called that "unacceptable," declaring that "LGBTQ people of color in the legal profession are far too often overlooked for positions of leadership and public trust, including federal judge ships. 

That must change. We honor her memory by strengthening our commitment to diversity within our judicial system, and in the legal profession as a whole.”