The Senate confirmed the first openly lesbian judge to a federal circuit court on Monday, flipping the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to a majority of Democrat-appointed judges.
Judge Beth Robinson, who previously served on the Vermont Supreme Court, was confirmed by a 51-45 vote. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke with their party and supported her confirmation.
The makeup of the 2nd Circuit now has seven Democrat-appointed and six Republican-appointed judges following Judge Robinson’s confirmation. She is President Biden‘s third judicial appointment to the 2nd Circuit.
LGBTQ groups cheered the confirmation but said their community continues to be underrepresented in the federal judiciary, calling for a transgender appointment.
“LGBT representation in the courts is critical because judges that more accurately reflect the diversity of our nation give legitimacy to these important institutions, which have such a profound impact on the lives of so many,” said Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer at Lambda Legal. “Judge Robinson’s lived and professional experiences will be assets in her work to fulfill our nation’s promise of justice.”
Of the 870 federal judgeships, 13 are held by openly LGBTQ jurists, according to Ms. McGowan.
“We are still awaiting our first openly bisexual or transgender judicial nominee,” she said.
Toby Heytens, who served as the solicitor general of Virginia, was confirmed Monday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit by a vote of 53-43.
Mr. Biden has had nine circuit court judges and 19 district court judges confirmed since taking office in January.
By comparison, former President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans, which made the federal judiciary a focus in the his administration, had confirmed eight circuit court judges and four district court judges during the same time frame. He also had Justice Neil M. Gorsuch appointed to the Supreme Court less than three months after taking office.
Progressive groups said Mr. Biden‘s pace for confirmations will put him ahead of his five predecessors.
“While more work must be done to undo the conservative takeover of our courts, Robinson and Heytens are emblematic of the exceptionally well-qualified judges that President Biden and Senate Democrats continue to confirm to the federal bench,” said Rakim Brooks, president of Alliance for Justice. “They are exactly the kinds of jurists we need.”
But Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, said comparing the judicial confirmations between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden at the start of their administrations is not a fair comparison.
“The pace at which Trump and Biden judges were confirmed at the beginning of the respective administrations is not an apples-to-apples comparison, because of the Gorsuch confirmation and the Senate rule in effect until 2019 requiring 30 hours of post-cloture debate for all judicial nominees. That said, Biden has been able to achieve the pace he has thanks to the willingness of moderate Democrats to toe the party line, even on the most radical nominees,” Ms. Severino said.