Penn welcomes first federal Latina judge
by Angela Thomas
Jan 23, 2014 | 586 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
University of Pennsylvania Law School’s LGBT student organization is preparing to stage its second-annual symposium focusing on issues impacting the local LGBT community — with a visit from a national legal figure with Philadelphia ties.

Lambda Law will present “Gay PA” from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 14 at the school, 3501 Sansom St., exploring such issues as employment discrimination, conversion therapy and juvenile detention.

The event’s keynote speaker is U.S. District Judge Nitza Quiñones Alejandro, the first openly gay Latina elected to the federal bench and a former Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge.

Symposium director Rick Mula said Quiñones Alejandro can relate to the struggles that LGBT Pennsylvanians face.

“She is going to be somebody who can tell us about the challenges she faced as a marginalized woman getting a prestigious and powerful position,” Mula said. “And I think for me, it sort of creates hope that, as frustrating as it is to see areas where the LGBT movement is not seeing progress, there are areas where things are changing. It is meaningful that an open lesbian of color can be appointed to district court.”

In addition to Quiñones Alejandro’s address, the symposium will feature a number of panel discussions.

Mula said that, with state Rep. Brian Sims introducing a measure to ban conversion therapy last fall, and with the state’s ongoing lack of discrimination protections for the LGBT community, organizers wanted to bring those issues to the attention of attendees, who he noted sometimes only hear about marriage equality.

“We wanted to focus on the issues that are relevant to the things going on in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Penn is known as being inclusive and supportive of the LGBT community. I think it is important to continue that and promote culture of inclusivity and discussion at law school. We want to draw attention to topics people don’t hear about through typical news media.”

Panelists will include Mazzoni Center legal director David Rosenblum, Philadelphia Commission for Human Rights deputy director Reynelle Staley, New Jersey-based attorney Robyn Gigl, Attic Youth Center executive director Carrie Jacobs and therapist Monique Walker, Peace Advocacy Network campaign director Ed Coffin and Philadelphia Department of Human Services commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose.

The event also will feature an update on ongoing marriage-equality litigation in the state, as well as a career fair and reception.

The symposium is free and open to the public.

Mula said he hopes participants, both LGBTs and allies, walk away with a more-enlightened idea of what marginalized segments of the community face, and the steps being taken to address those issues.

“I hope people will come away with a renewed sense of passion about the most marginalized people in the LGBT community,” he said. “I think when popular news media focuses on marriage, they lose sight of people like youth who are in juvenile-detention centers being harassed or people who cannot find employment because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. I think those things are more life-or-death than other issues.”

For more information or to register, visit

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