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Darrin Gayles approved by Senate as first openly gay black federal judge

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin P. Gayles
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin P. Gayles
Photo credit: J. Albert Diaz (used with permission)

The United States Senate made history on Tuesday by approving the nation’s first openly gay black federal judge with a vote of 98-0. With the vote, Darrin Gayles became a district court judge in Florida and was one of three judges nominated by President Barack Obama to be approved on Tuesday.

By a vote of 52-44, senators also endorsed Staci Yandle as a federal court judge in Illinois. Yandle, who is an openly black woman, became one of 112 female federal judges appointed by Obama in his presidency. It is a feat that is more than any previous president. The diversity did not stop there. The Senate also voted to make Salvador Mendoza a federal district judge in Washington State by a vote of 92-4 bringing the total number of Hispanics nominated by Obama to 31.

Overall it was a “historic day for our judiciary” said Presidential counsel Neil Eggleston in a blog post. He marked these milestones as important “not because these judges will consider cases differently, but because a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system.”

Although about 900 top federal judges remain white men, there has been an increase in the number of judges who represent the diversity that is only growing throughout the nation, especially with the approval of Gayles, who was nominated after Sen. Marco Rubio blocked Obama’s previous openly gay black nominee.

Gayle certainly has the resume for the position. He has served on the Florida Circuit Court since 2011 and before that he started his career by serving on the Miami-Dade County Court. A graduate from George Washington University School of Law, Gayle has drawn praise for his professionalism.

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith gave high accolades to the new federal judge. She said, “He is a dedicated professional. Whip smart. He’s everything you’d want in a judge in terms of experience and temperament. It’s a testament to his extraordinary qualifications and how far we’ve come as a society that racism and homophobia haven’t been used to try to hold him back.”

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