PHOTO: MIAMI HERALD
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is obstructing the confirmation of a Black, openly gay judicial nominee who could become the "first openly gay Black [man] to serve on the federal bench," reports the Washington Blade.
President Barack Obama nominated Judge William L. Thomas to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in mid-November. Thomas has served as a Miami-Dade County Circuit Court judge since 2005.
Rubio continues to hold up the Thomas nomination even though he and [Democratic Sen. Bill] Nelson recommended Thomas for the seat following approval from Florida’s Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, which makes recommendations to the state’s senators.
Rubio’s office didn’t respond to repeated requests from the Blade over the past two weeks to comment on why he continues to hold up the Thomas nomination. According to a report last week in the Tampa Bay Times, Rubio has concerns about Thomas’s involvement in a controversial case in which a man was given a sentence of just 364 days in jail for the hit-and-run death of a cyclist.
A judge is seeking to allay these concerns about Thomas in a letter to Rubio that was obtained by the Blade. In the July 19 missive, Nushin Sayfie, administrative judge for the criminal division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Florida, says the sentence Thomas gave in the case was within his guideline range. The name of the case, the victim and the defendant aren’t found in the letter.
Sayfie maintains that unlike what the media reported, the defendant wasn’t charged in the death of the victim, but "charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death."
Judge Thomas became President Obama's third nomination of an openly gay or lesbian federal jurist. Thomas would also become the second nation's second Black openly gay or lesbian federal judge, reports BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner.
"Thomas is the first out LGBT black judge to be nominated by Obama, but, if approved by the Senate, he would be the second out LGBT black judge. The first, Judge Deborah Batts, also was the first out LGBT federal judge. She was nominated by President Clinton and sat on the Southern District of New York bench. She took 'senior status,' a near retirement, earlier this year."
Only two weeks after the Thomas nomination on November 12, the Obama Administration made another historic nomination. Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, who is openly lesbian, was nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Quiñones' nomination was confirmed on June 13, 2013. She received her commission on June 19, 2013.
Reportedly, all of the Obama Administration's judicial nominees that were "renominated at the start of the 113th Congress have received confirmation" ... except for Judge William L. Thomas.