Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Openly Gay Black Man Named To NJ High Court

Bruce Harris, is believed to be the first openly gay, Black,
Republican  elected official in the country (Mayor of Chatham Borough, NJ)
Republican Governor Chris Christie is resolving a long-standing dispute over judicial nominations with the state Legislature by naming an openly gay, African-American male (and an Asian American male) to the State Supreme Court.

The nominees are 61-year-old Bruce Harris, the recently elected openly gay, Black, Republican mayor of Chatham Borough, NJ and 44-year-old Phil Kwon, a Korean-American assistant attorney general who worked with Christie when the Governor was a U.S. Attorney.

According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger:
"I am honored to nominate these two gentlemen," Christie said at a Statehouse news conference. "I trust the Senate will take into account their extraordinary backgrounds and experience and will give them swift hearings.”
The nominees would replace former Justice John Wallace Jr., whom Christie declined to reappoint in 2010, and Justice Virginia Long, who faces mandatory retirement on March 1.
In 2010, Christie touched off a firestorm when he declined to renominate Wallace. Senate Democrats, infuriated by the unprecedented move, refused to consider his replacement for the seat, Anne Patterson, for a year. Eventually, Patterson was sworn in to replace Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, who declined to seek re-nomination, and Wallace’s seat has remained vacant.
After refusing in 2010 to reappointment Wallace — who had two years to go before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 — and Rivera-Soto retired, the criticism of Christie grew louder because he left the court with no minority members. The court is currently comprised of five women and two men, all of whom are white.
If Harris is confirmed, he would make history as the first openly gay member of New Jersey's highest court. Interestingly, after lagging for years, recently there have been several additions of openly LGBT members on state high courts.

Hawaii (Sabrina Shizue McKenna), Massachusetts (Barbara Lenk) and Colorado (Monica Marquez) have all added openly LGBT members in the last year or so.

Congratulations to Bruce Harris!

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