President Joe Biden has announced his latest judicial nominations, and he’s included a historic LGBT+ candidate in the pool of nominees.
Biden announced his latest judiciary picks Thursday (5 August), and his list included two lesbians with long records of fighting for human rights. The White House said these choices reflect Joe Biden’s promise to “ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity” of the US.
The president tapped Beth Robinson – who has been an associate judge on the Vermont supreme court since 2011 – for a seat on the US court of appeals for the second circuit. If confirmed, she would be the first openly LGBT+ woman to ever serve on any US appeals court.
Robinson was a civil litigator from 1993 to 2010 where she focused on employment law, workers’ compensation, contract disputes and family law. She also represented LGBT+ individuals in civil and civil rights cases.
In 1999, she served as co-counsel in the case of Baker v State – the landmark decision that led to Vermont becoming the first state to enact same-sex civil unions. She co-founded and chaired the Vermont Freedom to Marry task force which is a group that advocated for LGBT+ rights in Vermont and successfully lobbied for enacting same-sex marriage in the state in 2009.
Beth Robinson reacts to a veto override vote for the same-sex civil marriage law at Vermont’s state house in April 2009. (Getty/Jordan Silverman)
Patrick Leahy, a Democratic senator in Vermont, said in a statement that Robinson’s nomination is a “good day for Vermont”. He added that he knows Robinson would serve on the court “with integrity, humility and a deep reverence for the rule of law”.
“Beth’s successes provided a blueprint for advocates in other states to achieve more equality across the country,” Leahy said. “As a result, Beth has widely – and rightfully – been hailed as one of our nation’s most important pioneers in the cause of LGBTQ rights.”
Joe Biden also nominated Charlotte Sweeney, a second, openly LGBT+ woman
Sweeney’s appointment on the US district court for the district of Colorado would also make history. If confirmed, she could be the first openly LGBT+ judge in Colorado and the first out queer woman to serve as a federal district court judge in any state west of the Mississippi.
Sweeney is currently a partner at Sweeney & Bechtold LLC, where she has practiced since 2008. Her practice is devoted to representing individuals in employment law, discrimination, sexual harassment and whistleblower claims cases among others.
Sweeney also serves as the treasurer on the board of directors for the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The LGBT+ non-profit was founded in the memory of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student in Wyoming who was brutally attacked and died in 1998.
According to the group’s website, Sweeney has been a supporter of the Matthew Shepard Foundation since 2010 and joined the board of directors in 2016.