President Barack Obama prides himself on the diversity of his judicial picks. But on Thursday, he charted new territory by nominating Staci Michelle Yandle, who, if confirmed, would become the second-ever out black lesbian federal judge.
Obama picked Yandle, who has been in private practice for 20 years and runs an Illinois firm, for a slot on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. She would fill a seat being vacated by Judge John Phil Gilbert, who is taking senior status on March 15.
“I am pleased to nominate these distinguished individuals to serve on the United States District Court bench,” Obama said of Yandle and a handful of other nominees he put forward Thursday. “I am confident they will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”
Yandle’s nomination puts her on track to become the second openly lesbian African-American federal judge in the country. Judge Deborah Batts, nominated by President Bill Clinton, was sworn in as a federal judge in Manhattan in June 1994. Batts took senior status in April 2012.
Yandle said in a July 2012 interview that the judicial world needs to be more accepting of the LGBT community.
“When I first started practicing, for a while I did not feel comfortable acknowledging my sexual orientation because I didn’t want it to cost me my job,” she said. “I wanted to be judged on my merit and my merit alone. Many members of the LGBT community still have that fear. We are a traditional profession that is conservative in many ways.”
HuffPost reached out to both of Yandle’s home state senators for comment on her nomination. A spokesman for Sen. Mark Kirk (R) did not respond, but Sen. Dick Durbin (D) said he plans to work with Kirk to get her confirmed.
“Staci Yandle is an excellent candidate for the federal bench in Southern Illinois,” Durbin said in a statement. “She will bring a wealth of knowledge and litigation experience to the position. I am pleased that President Obama has nominated her today. I will be working with Senator Kirk to see her nomination approved by the Senate.”