The Agenda

As Kennedy Leaves SCOTUS, LGBTQ Judges Become More Critical Than Ever

The announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement yesterday came as a shock to many, particularly the LGBTQ community. For the past thirty years, Justice Kennedy has been the decisive vote on many issues—most notably, when it came to expanding rights for gay Americans, starting with his work in 1996 to overturn a law in Colorado protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination and culminating in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges. However, with over two years until the next presidential election, President Donald Trump is positioned to nominate a justice who could be devastating to LGBTQ rights. That’s why the need for LGBTQ judges has become more critical than ever—and we need your help to get them elected. 

Judge Steven Kirkland is one of our hopes for statewide office. He’s running for Texas Supreme Court and has been an openly gay judge throughout his career. Steven began his judicial career in 2001 when he was appointed to the Houston Municipal Courts. In 2008, he was elected the first openly gay District Judge in the State of Texas, a seat that he currently holds. He serves on the Board of the International Association of LGBT Judges and has served on the Board of the LGBT Law section of the Texas Bar Association and Stonewall Lawyers Association of Greater Houston. He decided to run after the Texas Supreme Court reversed their decision on benefits to same-sex partners.

The Honorable Justice Lidia Stiglich is also running for statewide office, vying for election to the Nevada Supreme Court, to which she was appointed in November 2016 by Governor Brian Sandoval. She is currently the only openly LGBTQ judge in Nevada, and if she wins, she will be the only openly LGBTQ statewide elected official there as well.

Judge Kirkland and Justice Lidia Stiglich are just two of many LGBTQ candidates running for judicial office around the United States, including:

John Arrowood, North Carolina Court of Appeals

John was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2017 by Governor Roy Cooper. He has also been a Superior Court Judge, which is the trial court in North Carolina. John has served on the Board of the Victory Institute and is stepping down to run full time for this position. He is currently the only statewide LGBTQ official in the South.

Shannon Baldwin, Judge, Harris Country Criminal Court, Texas

Shannon has practiced law for 21 years and is licensed in Georgia and Texas. She is a former prosecutor and opened her law practice in Texas in 2003. Currently, she is a Partner at Baldwin Williams & Associations, PLLC.

Jason Cox, Harris Country Probate Court, Texas

Jason has practiced specifically in the area of probate for the last 14 years. He is also a longtime adjunct professor in the political science department at the University of St. Thomas

Michael Forti, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Michael was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2016 to fill a vacancy left by the late Judge Liu. Before his appointment, he was General Counsel to the Illinois Department of Transportation. He spent 17 years representing the interests of Chicago residents at the City of Chicago’s Department of Law, and has 36 total years of legal experience.

 Cecilia Horan, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Cecilia was appointed to the Circuit Court of Cook County by the Illinois Supreme Court in January 2017. She was a partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson where she practiced for 20 years, and is currently president of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago. Her appointment by the Supreme Court is a ringing endorsement of her qualifications for office, and her presidency of LAGBAC elevates her to one of the most prominent LGBT jurists in Chicago.

Jim Kovach, Harris County Civil Court at Law, Texas

Jim currently serves as both a Special Commissioner and Court Appointed Receiver. He has more than 25 years of experience in the courtroom and 10,000 cases representing both plaintiffs and defendants.

Jerry Simoneaux, Judge Probate Court 1, Texas

Jerry was appointed by former Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Judge in the Houston Municipal Courts in 2015. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law and served as Staff Attorney for Judge Kathleen Stone in Harris County Probate Court. He is a former president of the LGBTQ Law Section of the Texas State Bar and a recipient of the State Bar of Texas’ Judge Norman Black Award for service to the LGBTQ community.