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MISSION: To combine business development, leadership and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBT Community and those who support equality for all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why ‘Out’ Judges Matter

by Jason Burns, Political Director – Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund

At the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, we work to elect openly LGBT leaders to public office at all levels because we believe that authentic representation is crucial to ensuring that our community’s voice is heard. We are of the belief that our government should resemble the diversity of our country, and the judicial branch, where judges rule on cases impacting LGBT Americans on an almost weekly basis, is no exception.

The judiciary rules on issues that affect all members of society which means diversity in representation becomes even more important. If the diversity of the nation or a community is not reflected in its judiciary, our legal system is weakened.

LGBT Americans have been affected greatly by recent rulings coming down from our nation’s court systems. Since the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June of 2013, state bans on marriage equality have been falling on what seems to be a weekly basis. Last week the Supreme Court declined to hear any of the marriage cases before them, and as a result our country took another step towards fairness and equality. These important victories in court rooms across the country would not be possible without strong genuine representation within the judiciary.

(L-R) Justice Mary Yu, Judge Janet Garrow, Judge Johanna Bender
In Washington State this year, races like those of out candidates Mary Yu, Janet Garrow, and Johanna Bender provide opportunities to bolster LGBT representation in the Evergreen State. Justice Mary Yu has served on the Washington State Supreme Court since May of this year, when Governor Jay Inslee appointed her to the position. In addition to becoming the first openly LGBT member of the state’s highest court, Yu is also the first Latina and Asian-American to serve. Prior to her current position, Yu served as a trial court judge in King County Superior Court for 14 years, where she led the Minority and Justice Commission, tasked with eliminating bias in the court system.  On December 9, 2012, Yu became the first Justice to perform a same-sex marriage in Washington State following the successful passage of Referendum 74 in November of 2012.

The importance of races like Yu’s is all the more apparent when the judiciary is called on to decide on matters of equality. Rarely has an electorate ever voted to grant more rights to any minority. It is with the elections of candidates like Yu, Garrow, and Bender that the LGBT community can be guaranteed real representation and an authentic voice in the decisions impacting our lives.

The Victory Fund is a member of the GSBA and is a non-partisan organization that endorses and supports LGBT candidates for office.  Jason Burns’ article expresses the opinions and viewpoints of the Victory Fund.  The GSBA does not endorse candidates for office

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