A Puerto Rican judge who has fought adversity and paved the way for Hispanic women and the LGBT community since 1991 made history on Thursday.
Nitza Quiñones Alejandro became the first openly gay Hispanic woman elected to the federal judiciary after a voice vote by the United States Senate. She will serve on the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and according to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Quiñones is also the first Latina be elected to this specific court.
Quiñones was the first Hispanic Woman to be a judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, where she has worked since 1991. Her appointment makes her the seventh openly gay judge on the federal bench.
“We are very pleased to see yet another highly qualified, openly-LGBT nominee confirmed to the federal bench – particularly a woman of color who helps reflect the diversity of the American people in the judiciary,” Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz told the Washington Blade.
Quiñones was first nominated for the position by President Barack Obama in November of last year, then again this past January. She was one of 33 candidates and one of two to actually receive it, along with Jeffrey Schmehl.
President Obama congratulated the Latina judge at the White House’s LGBT Pride Month Reception on Thursday, “even though she couldn’t be here today, because she’s getting ready to finally take her seat on the bench and get to work,” the Advocate.com, an LGBT publication, reported.
At a hearing earlier this year, Quiñones said the most important attribute for a judge to possess is integrity.
“In exercising integrity, the judge must also be a good listener, patient, fair, impartial, courteous, reasonable, ethical, and decisive,” she said. “I believe I possess these qualities.”
Quiñones was born and educated in Puerto Rico, earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico in 1972, then her law degree from the School of Law at the University of Puerto Rico in 1975.
Before being elected to the state court, Quiñones Alejandro worked as an attorney advisor for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1977 to 1979 and staff attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs from 1979 to 1991.
“Nitza’s life as a lawyer, judge and civic leader make her a true American success story,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told the Blade. “Her 21 years on Philadelphia Court of Common Please have prepared her well for a seat on the federal bench, and I’m confident she’ll serve the Eastern District of Pennsylvania well.”