Since taking office, President Obama has quadrupled the number of openly gay judges holding lifetime appointments to the federal bench, although this fact has as much to do with the poor record of past presidents in naming gay judges as it does with President Obama’s commitment to diversity. Before Obama took office, only one openly gay judge — Clinton appointee Deborah Batts — was an Article III federal judge.
Yesterday, Obama announced his fifth openly gay nominee to the federal bench, federal prosecutor Pamela Ki Mai Chen, who will join the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York if confirmed. Chen spent much of her career in civil rights enforcement, and is currently the Chief of the Civil Rights Section and Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Section at a U.S Attorney’s office in New York.
Even if she is confirmed, however, gay Americans will remain massively underrepresented on the federal bench. Significantly, no openly gay judge has ever served on a United States Court of Appeals. Although President Obama nominated gay attorney Edward DuMont to a federal appeals court, DuMont eventually withdrew his nomination after he failed to receive a Judiciary Committee hearing in the face of Republican objections to his nomination.