President Obama Nominates African-American Lesbian to Federal Bench

On Thursday, President Obama announced several nominees to federal judge positions, including Staci Michelle Yandle. Yandle, who runs a private practice out of Illinois, would become only the second ever African-American, lesbian federal judge if she is confirmed, and her nomination is an indication of the concerted effort President Obama has made to diversify the American judicial system. Yandle will likely fill the space being vacated in the District Court of the southern district of Illinois by Judge John Phil Gilbert when he takes senior status in mid-March.

YandleHuffPost reports:

“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."

Congratulations to Yandle on the nomination, and we will cross our fingers for her confirmation! 


  1. says

    Many have said it before here on Towleroad. Jamal says it quite often still. Decades of work to gain what legal protections we have can be undone by one SCOTUS Justice like Sandoval judge Robert Jones. Millennials get equality and are our largest demographic of support but if they can’t be made to understand how critically important their participating in the voting process is then their support is mitigated.

    Register. Vote. Help register equality supporters and make sure they vote.

  2. enchantra says

    The problem with blindly voting Democratic can be easily observed in California where the Democratic controlled legislature has shown its contempt for the Constitution in several ways not the least of which can be seen in the numberous attempts at unconstitutional gun control. Obama cannot be allowed to seat a Supreme Court justice if he would nominate someone like Kamala Harris. I don’t know about Staci’s politics, but if she doesn’t understand and respect the Constitution and the limits it places on government then she has no business on the bench.

  3. andrew says

    @ENCHANTRA: Not all restrictions on gun ownership are unconstitutional. Hopefully Obama will get a chance to name one or two more Justices to the Supreme Court. Given his nominations of Center-Left Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan we can have confidence in any possible future appointments he may make.

  4. RonCharles says

    Andrew makes a great point. Unless the Republican in question is an active supporter of gay rights, and is running for an office other than the presidency, gay Americans would be well advised to vote Democratic.

  5. Mike Lawton says

    Labels, labels, labels. Does it make any difference that she is African-American or lesbian? She is qualified and impartial in her views…..period.

  6. andrew says

    @MIKE LAWTON: Every Judge and Justice comes to the Court with all of their life experiences. No one has grown up in a vacuum. Race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, party affiliations etc, all effect the way a Judge or Justice views life and the law. Why do you think U.S. Senators do every thing they can to advance or block nominees based on their life’s story?

  7. Enchantra says

    Andrew – The Second Amendment says, “shall not be infringed”. Please explain how infringement is constitutional.

  8. andrew says

    @ENCHANTRA: 2nd Amendment: ” A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. Like it or not, the Constitution says what a majority of the Justices says it says. The S.C. has ruled that the Constitution does not bar State regulation of firearms. The Court has ruled that the right to keep and bear arms is subject to regulations; such as concealed weapons prohibitions, limits on the rights of felons and the mentally ill, laws forbidding the carrying of weapons in certain locations, laws imposing conditions on commercial sales, and the prohibition on the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. The Court stated that this was not an exhaustive list of the regulatory measures that would be presumptively permissible under the 2nd Amendment.

  9. enchantra says

    Andrew – The Supreme Court is not the final word, which is why we have the Second Amendment.

  10. andrew says

    @ENCHANTRA: The Supreme Court has the final word on what is and is not constitutional. If you want to get out your gun and try to over throw the democratically elected government of the United States, you will wind up either in a mental hospital or a prison.