Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed William Thomas, who currently serves as a Miami-area judge, for the federal bench. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, Rubio’s team reviewed Thomas’ record, subjected him to a background check, and encouraged the White House to nominate him. Obama’s team agreed and sent the nomination to the Senate.
Rubio then learned that Judge Thomas is gay, at which point the senator changed his mind and announced his opposition to the judicial nominee he’d recommended. The White House was ultimately forced to give up on the qualified jurist, who was poised to become the first openly gay black man to serve as a federal judge.
To be sure, Rubio did not say he objected to Thomas because of his sexual orientation. Rather, the senator said he recommended the judge, then learned about some “inappropriate criminal sentences” the judge imposed, then withdrew his support. Right Wing Watch took a closer look at Rubio’s explanation and found that it doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny. [Update: See below.]
But as it turns out, President Obama is prepared to put Rubio’s argument to the test. If the Florida Republican is fine with confirming a qualified Florida jurist who happens to be gay, will Rubio support Darrin Gayles?
President Obama nominated Judge Darrin Gayles, an out gay black state court judge, to serve as a judge on the same federal trial court where another out gay black judge’s nomination was blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio.Gayles, who was endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund in his last election in 2012, was nominated Wednesday to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
What a great opportunity for Rubio.
He already blocked the first openly gay black man who would have served as a federal judge, but as luck would have it, there’s another openly gay black man from the exact same court in Miami.
Both Thomas and Gayles currently serve on the same court, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida in Miami, though Johnson serves in its criminal court and Gayles on its civil court.
In case you’re wondering why Rubio’s able to block these nominees, this isn’t an obstructionist tactic the “nuclear option” was able to address. Filibusters on judicial nominees are no longer permitted, but the “blue-slip” process remains in place – senators can still block a nominee for the federal bench in his or her own state.
As of this morning, Rubio has not yet announced his position on Gayles’ nomination.
Update: Rubio’s office reached out to insist that the senator’s reversal on Judge Thomas was unrelated to his sexual orientation and that Rubio was aware that Thomas is gay when the senator recommended him.
As for Judge Gayles, Rubio, along with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), has given his preliminary approval to the judicial nomination, pending the Senate confirmation process.