Andrew McDonald Could Become First Openly Gay Leader of a State Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court is seen while arguments for Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is heard on December 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. In a historic move, Connecticut’s Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced today that he is nominating Andrew McDonald as the state’s Chief Justice — McDonald would become the first openly gay person to lead State Supreme Court. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

In a historic move on Monday, Connecticut’s Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced he nominated Andrew McDonald as the state’s Chief Justice. If he were confirmed, McDonald would become the first openly gay person to lead a state Supreme Court.

There are nearly a dozen LGBT justices in state Supreme Courts, but no LGBT person has been confirmed to lead the courts as Chief Justice. The closest comparison is Puerto Rico Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodriguez, a lesbian who was confirmed in February 2016 as the chief justice of the highest court.

During the announcement of McDonald’s nomination, the governor said McDonald's qualifications include his intellect, temperament and respect for the rule of law. Malloy, who has been friends with McDonald for years, added “it also can’t go without noting the national significance of this nomination.”

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McDonald already broke political ground by serving as the first openly gay member of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and by representing the city of Stamford as an openly gay state senator. He married his partner, Charles Gray, last year.

“When I was born here in Connecticut a little more than 50 years ago, loving relationships like the one Charles and I cherish were criminal in 49 states, including Connecticut,” McDonald told the Connecticut Mirror on Monday. “And when I came out in the early 1990s, I had family members who loved me deeply but so counseled me against pursuing either a career in law or in public service because of the deeply ingrained prejudices held by some people at that time.”

McDonald is currently an associate justice where he has served on the Connecticut Supreme Court for five years, according to the Associated Press. Before that, he was a state senator from Stamford, served as general counsel for the governor’s office under Malloy, and worked on the corporation counsel for the city of Stamford.

"The first openly gay leader of a state Supreme Court is history-making, and certainly something to be celebrated," D'Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, told Newsweek in an email. "This signals the changing tides of acceptance and inclusion; the cultural competency that Justice McDonald will bring to the position is priceless."

Kemnitz pointed out the same focus of Malloy's announcement — McDonald isn't "just an outstanding gay candidate, but an outstanding candidate in general."

"He has demonstrated a commitment to the rule of law, and is sure to champion a fair and impartial judiciary," Kemnitz wrote. "Nothing shows this more than the overwhelming bipartisan support he received from former colleagues in the General Assembly during his initial confirmation."

This nomination comes at a time after President Donald Trump nominated a slew of anti-LGBT judges to district courts. In fact, nearly one-third of Trump’s judicial nominees had records that “demonstrate hostility towards the rights of LGBT people,” an analysis released by Lambda Legal shows.

One of Trump’s newest judicial nominees said gay judges shouldn’t hear cases involving issues that affect the LGBT community, according to a report by Alliance for Justice.

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