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Obama tries again: 2nd gay black man named to fed’l bench

Citizens Metal, Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama nominated a gay black judge to serve on federal court (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

After his earlier attempt at appointing a gay black male judge to the federal bench was thwarted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), President Obama on Wednesday announced he’s making another effort with a different nominee in the same court.

Obama named Darrin Gayles, who currently serves as a Miami-Dade Circuit Judge in Florida, as part of a group of four nominees for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

“Throughout their careers, these distinguished men and women have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to public service,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident they will serve the American people with distinction from the District Court bench.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Gayles would be the first gay black male to serve on the federal bench. (Deborah Batts, confirmed to the federal bench in 1994 and the first-ever out person to sit on the federal judiciary, is also black.)

Steven Thai, a spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, praised Obama for nominating Gayles.

“We commend the administration for nominating a qualified jurist who will also add diversity to the federal bench,” Thai said. “If confirmed, Judge Gayles will be the nation’s first black, openly gay federal judge, and he will reflect the talent and commitment that exists in communities that are underrepresented in public service.”

According to a White House bio, Gayles has served as a circuit judge in Florida state court since 2011. He was among the candidates endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund in 2012.

Before that, Gayles was a county judge since 2004. He’s also served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, an assistant district counsel at the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service and an assistant state attorney.

Gayles received his law degree in 1993 from George Washington University Law School and his bachelor’s degree in 1990 from Howard University.

In November 2012, Obama made an attempt to appoint a gay black judge to the federal judiciary by naming Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas to federal court in Florida, but the nomination never even saw a hearing.

Rubio, who had initially recommended the Thomas nomination, refused to hand in his “blue slip” as one of his home-state senators to start the process of confirmation, objecting to Thomas’ temperament when presiding over two different cases.

Although lawyers involved in the case said he acted appropriately, Rubio refused to allow the nominee to proceed. At the start of the year, Obama didn’t include Thomas’ name among the 200 nominees that were renamed, and the White House said Thomas wouldn’t be named again.

In a statement, Rubio said he’s happy with each of the four judicial nominees that Obama named on Wednesday, which would include Gayles, but said he wished the White House would have acted in more bipartisan manner.

“I welcome today’s four nominations to the district courts in Florida,” Rubio said. “As I previously indicated to the president, I do not anticipate having an objection to moving forward on any of these nominations pending the outcome of the customary background check conducted on every nominee. I am disappointed, however that given the opportunity to fill four vacancies on the court, the White House has declined to nominate any of the Republican finalists jointly suggested by Sen. Nelson and myself.”

Alex Conant, a Rubio spokesperson, said Gayles was on a list of potential nominees that Rubio’s office told the White House would be acceptable.

Ryan Brown, a spokesperson for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), said Gayles was among the potential nominees the Florida Democrat sent to the president.

Obama has also named Staci Michelle Yandle, a black lesbian, for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Her nomination is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

D’Arcy Kemnitz, president of the LGBT Bar Association, said Gayles’ nomination “deserves prompt consideration” by the Senate.

“Darrin Gayles is admired and well-respected throughout the profession,” Kemnitz said. “Our judiciary should never be politicized, and any attempt to delay or derail his nomination because of animus or discriminatory political views would be unacceptable.”


Washington Blade traveling to Colombia to cover U.S. gov’t program on LGBT rights

Washington, D.C. — The Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT newspaper, is sending a reporter to Bogota, Colombia this week to cover a new public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world.

The U.S. Agency for International Development will work with the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and Olivia Companies on the LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to advocacy groups in Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala and other developing countries.

Blade reporter Michael Lavers will travel to Colombia on Wednesday, May 29 and file reports from Bogota throughout the week. Lavers will be chronicling the USAID effort, profiling local grassroots LGBT activists and interviewing Colombian politicians and other officials.

“As the LGBT rights movement gains momentum abroad, the Blade is committed to covering these exciting advances with reporters on the ground,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff.

Follow Lavers and his reports at, on the Blade’s Facebook page or on Twitter, @washingtonblade.

The Washington Blade was founded in 1969 and is known as the “newspaper of record” for the LGBT community both locally and nationally. Visit for more information.

CONTACT: Kevin Naff, editor, Washington Blade, 410-404-0325

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Kevin Naff, editor, Washington Blade, (410) 404-0235


Una colaboración de USAID con grupos gay tiene como objectivo promover los derechos LGBT en el extranjero

WASHINGTON, D.C.—28  de mayo de 2013—El Washington Blade, el periódico LGBT más antiguo y respetado del país, va a enviar un reportero a Bogotá, Colombia, esta semana para reportear sobre una colaboración público/privada diseñada para avanzar los derechos LGBT del mundo.

La Agencia de los Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID) trabajará con la Agencia Sueca para el Desarrollo Internacional (SIDA,) Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, Williams Institute de la UCLA School of Law y Olivia Companies en la Colaboración Programa Global LGBT (the LGBT Global Partnership) que contribuirá $11 milliones durante los próximos cuatro años a grupos LGBT en Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala y otros países en desarrollo.

Michael Lavers, un reportero por el Blade, viajará a Colombia el 29 de mayo y presentará informes de Bogotá durante la semana. Documentará la colaboración de USAID y entrevistará a varios activistas LGBT, políticos y funcionarios de Colombia.

“En cuanto avanza el movimento LGBT en el extranjero, el Blade se compromete a reportear estos avances emocionantes con reporteros en el terreno,” dice el editor del Blade, Kevin Naff.

Puede seguir a Lavers y sus informes a, en la página de Facebook del Blade o en Twitter @washingtonblade.

El Washington Blade fue fundada en 1969 y es conocido como el periódico líder que documenta la comunidad LGBT local y nacional de los Estados Unidos. Visita por más información.


Victory Congressional Celebration

buyphotoThe Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute held a celebration at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Friday. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)


USAID launches partnership to promote LGBT rights

Chuck Wolfe, gay news, gay politics dc, Victory Fund

Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe is among those who attended Monday’s announcement. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Agency for International Development on Monday unveiled a public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world.

USAID will work with the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and Olivia Companies on the LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to advocacy groups in Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala and other developing countries. The Gill Foundation and the Levi Strauss Foundation will also participate in the initiative that seeks to expand the capacity of local LGBT rights organizations, further engage out people in their respective countries’ political processes and gather information on the impact of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“This partnership leverages the financial resources and skills of each partner to further inclusive development and increase respect for the human rights of LGBT people around the world,” Claire Lucas, senior advisor of the USAID Office of Innovation and Development Alliances during a panel at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C. “It can be a real game-changer in the advancement of LGBT human rights.”

Anne-Charlotte Malm of the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency echoed Lucas.

“We all, by being here today, share the common vision of a society without discrimination or harassment and equal rights and opportunities for everybody regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” she said. “This partnership is a step towards this tradition.”

More than 80 countries and territories continue to criminalize homosexuality — and seven of them impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of same-sex sexual relations.

Only 19 countries ban anti-transgender discrimination — the State Department has spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Honduras, Jamaica, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other nations in recent years.

Argentina, Canada, Spain and South Africa are among the dozen countries that currently allow same-sex marriage.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 proclaimed in a speech she delivered in Geneva to commemorate International Human Rights Day that “gay rights are human rights.” President Obama on the same day directed government agencies that implement American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights in the countries in which they work.

The planning for the partnership was already underway when the White House issued its directive, but Lucas said it “really helped us push this over the finish line.”

“I’m humbled by the challenges that you have faced and the sorrows and traumas you’re still sorting out,” Maura O’Neill, director of USAID’s Office of Innovation and Development Alliances, told the LGBT rights advocates and others who attended the panel. “I’m awed by the amazing lives that each and every one of you have created and the path you have called your own. This partnership will help millions of others walk in your proud shoes.”

Victory Institute, Astraea to train out Colombian officials

The partnership’s first training will take place in Bogotá, Colombia, from May 30-June 2.

The Victory Institute and Astraea will work with Colombia Diversa, a countrywide advocacy group, to encourage LGBT Colombians to become involved in the political process. Bogotá City Councilor Angelica Lozano; Blanca Durán, mayor of the Colombian capital’s Chapinero district and Tatiana Piñeros, a trans woman whom Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro appointed last year to run the city’s social welfare agency are among those expected to attend.

“We’re pretty excited about this and thrilled that we get to be out there helping LGBT leaders in other countries,” Victory Institute CEO Chuck Wolfe said.

He further cited U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) as an example of the impact he said an out elected official can have among their constituents and their country’s political discourse.

“That civic engagement we know changes the discussion,” Wolfe said as he further discussed what he described as the trainings’ long-lasting impact. “It changes everybody’s understanding of who we are as people and it changes the nature of the debate.”