A marriage equality supporter holds gay pride and American flags at a demonstration.
Stephen Lam/Reuters

Senate confirms first openly lesbian federal judge in Michigan

Michigan got its first openly lesbian federal judge last week, when the Senate confirmed Judith Levy to preside over the Eastern District of Michigan. The decision was an overwhelming 97-0, with Senators Reid, Rockefeller, and Rubio not voting.

The president originally nominated Levy in July 2013, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination in January. Prior to serving as a federal judge, she was the Civil Rights Unit Chief for the Eastern District of Michigan and a trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Detroit.

While Levy will be the first out LGBT member of the federal bench in Michigan, she is far from being the first gay federal judge nationwide. President Obama has nominated, and the Senate has confirmed, several LGBT federal judges over the past few years.

If there is something especially remarkable about this particular confirmation, it is how normalized LGBT representation on the federal bench has become. In fact, an article from The Detroit News reporting on Levy’s confirmation does not even make note of her orientation.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., urged the Senate to confirm Levy and three other judges to the Eastern District of Michigan in a statement released shortly before the vote. All four judges, he said, have “demonstrated a commitment to impartial justice and a thorough knowledge of the law.” Discussing Levy, he singled out her work as Civil Rights Unit Chief.

There, she is responsible for investigating and litigating civil rights cases on behalf of the United States, including fair housing, fair lending, disability access and police misconduct cases, and for handling citizen civil rights complaints addressed to the office and conducting outreach regarding a variety of office programs,” Levin said.