Nomination of Gay, Black Judge for Federal Post Is Blocked by Marco Rubio

The Florida senator switched his support of Judge William Thomas, saying he has concerns about his judicial temperament.

Posted: 09/24/2013 05:12 PM EDT

The nomination of a gay African-American judge from Miami is being blocked after Senator Marco Rubio said he was withdrawing his support because of concerns relating to positions the judge took in two criminal cases.

William Thomas, who is now a judge on the Miami-Dade Circuit Court, was nominated to serve on the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida by President Obama nearly a year ago. His nomination was supported by Sen. Rubio and Bill Nelson, Florida’s other senator.

In a statement from Rubio’s office, the senator said he now had concerns about the fitness of Judge Thomas. “Those concerns include questions about his judicial temperament and his willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences,” the statement said. 

A number of Florida legislators and Black lawyers in the state have charged that Rubio’s opposition to Judge Thomas reflects shifting political considerations and that they are disappointed by the possibility that a well-qualified Black jurist could be denied a federal judgeship.

“When we look at competence and the capacity of jurists to serve on the bench, whenever you can find someone who comes with diverse experiences, it’s a positive thing,” said Alan B. Williams, a Florida state representative who is chairman of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, speaking with BET.com.

The kind of diversity that Judge Thomas would bring, Williams said, "allows for the best possible outcome for all parties when the public looks to the courts for the resolution of various issues.”

Officials in Black legal groups said that, as Rubio has been more harshly criticized by conservatives for the leadership role he once took on the issue of immigration, he has looked to restore his standing with that segment of the electorate.

They suggest that supporting a judicial nominee who is Black and gay would not be viewed favorably by conservative voters around the country.

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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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