By Raynard Jackson
William Thomas and Bruce Harris are two very successful judges who most people don’t know. Thomas is from Miami and Harris is from Chatham Borough, N.J. Both were nominated for judgeships and both were defeated. Both are Black. Both are homosexual. One is a Democrat and the other is a Republican.
Thomas was nominated last year to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. Typically, the two U.S. senators both must agree on a nominee and then submit the name to the president for formal nomination. In most cases, once the senators submit the person’s name to the president (and the president formally nominates), the U.S. Senate rubber stamps their approval for confirmation.
In Thomas’ case, his two Florida Senators (Ben Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, agreed to submit his name to the president for formal nomination. However, Rubio recently withdrew his support, effectively killing the nomination.
From all indications, Thomas, who currently serves on the Miami-Dade Circuit, has a stellar background, professionally and personally. Had he been confirmed, Thomas would have been the first openly homosexual Black man to serve as a federal judge.
In New Jersey, Bruce Harris was nominated last year by Gov. Chris Christie to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Harris received his undergrad degree from Amherst College, his law degree from Yale University, and a graduate degree from Boston University. He has spent 20 years practicing commercial law and in 2011 was elected as mayor of Chatham Borough, N.J.
On May 31, 2012, the Democratically-controlled New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination of Harris to the Supreme Court on a 7-6 vote. Christie also had simultaneously nominated Phillip Kwon to join Harris on the New Jersey State Supreme Court. Kwon, First Assistant State Attorney General, is an Asian American. He was also defeated by the New Jersey state senate. The New Jersey Bar Association found Harris (and Kwon) “qualified” for the Supreme Court by a vote of 24-1.
They would have been the first Black and Asian to ever serve on the state’s highest court.
Harris also has a stellar background, professionally and personally. The Democrats on the senate committee claimed that Harris lacked the proper “judicial” experience, but never explained what exactly that meant.
What stuns and saddens me is the seeming double standard in the response to these two judicial defeats. Now, before I proceed, let me stipulate for the record that one nominee is for the federal bench and one is for the state bench; two different dynamics, but their confirmations should be based on the same principles.
Liberals have castigated Rubio over his change of position. Fair enough. But these same “open-minded” individuals have been mum about the treatment of Bruce Harris. Both are Black, both are attorneys, both are homosexual. The only difference is one is Democrat (Thomas) and one is Republican (Harris).
Is equality only worth fighting for if you are a Democrat?
My opposition to homosexuality is no closet secret, so to speak. Even so, I don’t think qualified individuals should be denied judgeships simply because of their sexual orientation. Nor should he or she be rejected because of political affiliation.
The Democratic-controlled New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee defeated a Black, homosexual for no other reason than that he is a Republican nominated by a Republican governor.
The Democratic chairman of the judiciary committee, Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) said Harris was unqualified. If Scutari had said that about a Black, liberal, homosexual male, he would have hell to pay. But, say what you want about a Black, homosexual, Republican, and no worries because tolerance, equality and understanding is a partisan issue built on a one-way street.
Moral outrage isn’t being expressed by the Human Rights Campaign, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Congressional Black Caucus nor LaRaza.
Sharon Lettman-Hicks is executive director and chief executive officer of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a national civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black LGBT people.
Here’s what she had to say about Rubio’s actions towards Thomas: “As a Floridian for more than 25 years, I am aghast by Senator Rubio’s withdrawal of support for the nomination of Judge William Thomas…Senator Rubio’s newfound opposition seems only to serve as a thinly-veiled mask for the racism and homophobia that permeates his tea party politics. This brand of political theatrics is unfit for the U.S. Senate, and is beneath the dignity of Judge Thomas.”
It is infuriating that she and her organization have had nothing to say about the treatment of Bruce Harris by White liberals in New Jersey. Ms. Lettman-Hicks, can I introduce you to my dear friend Mr. Laryngitis?
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, http://www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.