Monday, April 13, 2009

Today in Gay History

Happy Birthday April 13th
Hon. Deborah A. Batts (b. 1947)
Federal Judge

H/T to qlbtq

Deborah A. Batts, an African-American lesbian, became the first openly gay federal judge upon her 1994 appointment to the U.S. District Court in New York.

Batts has been low-key about her sexuality but has not hidden it. A member of the Lesbian and Gay Law Association of Greater New York, she once urged a graduating class at Fordham Law School to enact laws to protect against anti-gay discrimination.

Batts' unwillingness to be a gay rights activist undoubtedly aided her rise to the federal bench. Recommended by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The earlier nomination by Clinton of another lesbian--Roberta Achtenberg, as undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development--met with strong opposition. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee never inquired about Batts' sexual orientation, and the Senate quickly confirmed the appointment. Batts began service on the federal bench on June 23, 1994.

Little is known about Batts's personal life. Divorced with two children, she has refused to discuss much of her life in an attempt to avoid becoming known as the "gay judge." She has described being a lesbian as "definitely an important part" of her life, but has added that it is only one of many important parts of her life: "I am also a very devoted mother, I'm an attorney, a former prosecutor, and I'm an African American."


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