Justice of the Peace, Magistrates, and District Court Judges Who Are LGBTQ
A Justice of the Peace (JP), Magistrate, or District Court Judge is a legal authority retained to administer and enforce the laws pertaining to misdemeanors and bylaws within a specific region. The official title can depend on the country, but their origin goes back to medieval England when the king appointed a regional representative (usually a Knight or local gentry) to enforce his laws. In some countries, the individual need not be required to have formal legal training, though that is more and more the case today. The position is usually filled by appointment as has been done historically, but in some countries it is an elected position.
As with any legal system, having minorities represented within the judiciary imparts a sense of confidence in the legal system by that community. This is certainly the case for the LGBTQ community which faces many instances of discrimination and intolerance. Many countries permit marriages to be performed by a Justice of the Peace, for example, which is a contentious issue of equal rights for the LGBTQ community around the world.
It is imperative that cases are decided by judges who weigh the facts and apply the law without bias. But it is also important that the courts are perceived to be impartial, as the courts owe their very legitimacy to the public’s acceptance of their rulings as fair and just. This is why diversity on the bench matters.
Unfortunately, there are no statistics whatsoever on how many JPs, magistrates, and District Court Judges are LGBTQ. Its one of the many gaps in the data about this group of legal authorities. The UK's Stonewall, in their report Gay in Britain found that half of lesbian, gay and bisexual people would expect to face barriers to becoming a magistrate because of their sexual orientation, and one in six would expect worse treatment than a heterosexual person if appearing before a magistrate for a minor criminal offence. Because of this, Stonewall recommended that advisory committees should actively encourage applications from LGBTQ candidates.
The International Association of LGBT Judges (IALGBTJ) was formed to represent the interests of LGBT judges around the world.
We have identified the following LGBTQ Magistrates, Justices of the Peace, and District Court Judges. Simply click on their names to read their fascinating biographies.
- Jerry Birdwell
- Sabrina McKenna
- Alison Nathan
- J. Paul Oetken
- Robert L. Pitman
- Mary Rowland
- E. Denise Simmons
- Tracy Thorne-Begland
- Staci Michelle Yandle
- LGBTQ Chief Justices
- Practising LGBTQ Rights Lawyers
- LGBTQ Police and Law Enforcement Officers
- Government Ministers of Justice Who Identify as LGBTQ