Being an openly LGBT judge in Texas has its challenges, but also benefits.
At a panel discussion at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Houston, four LGBT judges—from municipal court to district court benches—talked about their pathways to the bench, how they can be role models and help other LGBT lawyers and litigants, and the personal challenges they’ve faced by breaking into the judiciary.
One good pathway for an LGBT lawyer to become a judge is to seek an appointment to a municipal court bench—that was the path for Houstonites Phyllis Frye, a transgender judge, and Steven Kirkland, a gay judge.
It’s poetic coincidence that the biggest U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the LGBT civil rights movement bore the date June 26, said high court litigator Paul Smith, who argued the landmark case that laid the foundation for same-sex marriage equality.
In Lawrence v. Texas, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home for alleged “deviant sexual intercourse” that violated the Texas criminal sodomy statute. Fifteen years ago on June 26, 2003, the high court ruled in Lawrence that criminal sodomy statutes were unconstitutional. It paved the way for the high court on the same date—June 26—nine years later in Windsor v. United States to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act’s definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” as limited to opposite-sex couples. And in 2015, again on June 26, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Many law firms support LGBT equality by donating money or doing cases pro bono. But one firm has taken it to a higher level—16 stories, to be exact.
Nixon Peabody has donated 2,300 square feet of its 16th floor San Francisco office and partnered with StartOut, a nonprofit LGBT business accelerator, to launch the StartOut Growth Lab. The firm’s lawyers provide free legal advice and give critical information on business know-how to the seven LGBT-owned businesses they nurture.
PDF: Nixon Peabody’s On-Site Incubator a Boost for LGBT Entrepreneurs _ Law
Derek Mergele was already out of the closet for 20 years when he moved to Lubbock to study at Texas Tech University School of Law.
The openly gay, married law student’s mission was to knock down LGBT stereotypes in the conservative West Texas community and to be so visible that anyone questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity knew that Mergele was a friend and available to talk.
Leaving an LGBT Law Legacy _ Texas Lawyer