Local becomes first lesbian Latina federal judge
by Angela Thomas
Jun 20, 2013 | 2946 views | 0 0 comments | 537 537 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A longtime Philadelphia judge has officially become the first openly lesbian Latina to sit on the federal bench.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Nitza Quiñones Alejandro June 13 to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She is the first LGBT Hispanic person to be confirmed to the federal bench, and only the seventh LGBT federal judge nationwide.

President Obama nominated Alejandro for the judgeship in November, supported by both Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey Jr. (D).

Alejandro served as a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge since 1991. She received both her bachelor’s in business administration and law degree from the University of Puerto Rico. The Senate also confirmed Berks County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Schmehl to the federal bench.

Casey said in a statement that he was pleased to see the bipartisan decision to bring Alejandro to the federal court, adding her service and story could provide a positive example.

“Nitza’s life as a lawyer, judge and civic leader make her a true American success story,” Casey said. “Her 21 years on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas have prepared her well for a seat on the federal bench, and I’m confident she’ll serve the Eastern District of Pennsylvania well.”

Toomey added that Alejandro’s diverse courtroom and civic experiences will be beneficial in her new role.

“In her 21 years on the bench, Nitza Quiñones Alejandro has presided over many cases incorporating different facets of the law. In addition to her extensive experience in the courtroom, she has also remained active in her community through her work with schools and mentoring summer law interns,” Toomey said. “She is eminently qualified and a committed public servant. Moreover, I am proud that Judge Quiñones will be the first Latina judge to serve in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.”

While Alejandro’s confirmation made national history, it was especially hailed locally.

Elicia Gonzales, executive director of GALAEI: A Queer Latin@ Social Justice Organization, said Alejandro is a role model for LGBT Latinas everywhere.

“Part of my reason for working at GALAEI was, as somebody who is queer and Latina, I was able to see myself reflected for the first time in my entire life,” Gonzales said. “With the appointment of Nitza as the first openly gay Hispanic woman, it further exemplifies having people reflective of all the community. And I think particularly with queer gay women, we don’t get a chance to see ourselves reflected in positive ways. It is usually overly sexualized and eroticized versions for heterosexual male consumption. It is going to speak volumes.”

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