December 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Gay attorney confirmed to federal judiciary in Texas

Robert Pitman, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Attorney Robert L. Pitman was confirmed to the federal court in Texas. (Photo public domain)

The U.S. Senate late Tuesday confirmed to the federal bench an openly gay attorney who’s been serving more than a decade in the justice system.

Robert Pitman, whom President Obama nominated in June for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, was confirmed by voice vote along with a slew of other nominees before the Senate adjourned for the year.

Pitman, who assumes a seat that has been vacant for more than six years, is one of 11 openly LGBT judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate during the Obama administrations. Before Obama took office, the only out judge on the federal bench was Deborah Watts, who’s serving on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Eric Lesh, fair courts project manager for Lambda Legal, said the Pitman confirmation adds to the diversity of the bench.

“For the judicial system in the United States to be truly fair, it must reflect the tremendous diversity of the country,” Lesh said. “President Obama has made great strides in promoting and ensuring that diversity with his nominations of people of color and of openly gay and lesbian individuals to the federal bench. We celebrate the confirmation of Judge Pitman, which brings welcome diversity to the federal bench in Texas while simultaneously filling a seat that had been vacant for more than six years.”

It was only three years ago in September 2011 that the Senate confirmed Pitman for his previous position as U.S. attorney for the Western District in Texas. Prior to that role, Pitman has been serving since 2003 as a magistrate judge for the federal court in Texas to which he would be later confirmed as a district court judge.

Lesh said he hopes the diversity of the court will increase further in areas not just limited to sexual orientation.

“While great progress has been made to bring diversity to the courts, we still have a long way to go,” Lesh said. “There are nearly 900 federal judges in the U.S., and most are straight white men. Federal courts are charged with providing everyone with equal access to justice, and yet justice has not always been a reality for some. A judiciary diverse in race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and lived and professional experience serves not only to improve the quality of justice, but to boost public confidence in the courts.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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