The U.S. Senate confirmed on Thursday by voice vote for the first time ever an openly gay Latina to the federal judiciary.
The Senate confirmed Nitza QuiĂ±ones Alejandro, who has been a judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas since 1991, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, along with another nominee, Jeffrey Schmehl.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, commended the Senate for what he said was the confirmation of another well-qualified LGBT person to the federal judiciary.
“We are very pleased to see yet another highly qualified, openly-LGBT nominee confirmed to the federal bench â particularly a woman of color who helps reflect the diversity of the American people in the judiciary,” Cole-Schwartz said.
A Puerto Rico native, QuiĂ±ones breaks a glass ceiling as the first openly LGBT Hispanic to serve on the federal bench. Additionally, she’s the seventh openly LGBT person ever to receive confirmation as a federal judge.
President Obama first nominated QuiĂ±ones for the position in November and renominated her at the start of the 113th Congress in January as part of a group of 33 nominees.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who recommended the QuiĂ±ones nomination, said in a statement he’s “pleased” the Senate confirmed her along with Schmehl “in a bipartisan fashion.”
“Nitzaâs life as a lawyer, judge and civic leader make her a true American success story,” Casey said. “Her 21 years on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas have prepared her well for a seat on the federal bench, and Iâm confident sheâll serve the Eastern District of Pennsylvania well.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a Tea Party Republican who spoke highly of QuiĂ±ones when she was first nominated to the bench, took to Twitter to congratulate her and Schmehl upon their confirmation.
Grateful the Senate has unanimously confirmed Judges Nitza QuiĂ±ones & Jeffrey Schmehl as U.S. District Judges for PA’s Eastern District.
â Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) June 13, 2013,
According to a bio provided by the White House, QuiĂ±ones, before serving on state court, worked as a staff attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs and as an attorney advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services.
She received her law degree in 1975 from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and graduated with honors in 1972 from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelorâs degree in business administration.