A lesbian judge in Texas is appealing after she was handed a formal warning for flying a rainbow flag in her courtroom.
Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez made history in the state in 2018 when she was elected to the county court bench in Bexar County, Texas.
However, she is now facing a battle with the the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct over her decision to fly a rainbow flag in her courtroom.
The judicial conduct body said that the flag denotes a breach of impartiality rules — even though other judges, such as those with mixed heritage, have been permitted to display another country’s flag in their courtroom.
Speedlin Gonzalez told Texas Lawyer: “Everyone is welcome into this courtroom. That was the symbolism behind that flag.”
Complaint insisted rainbow flag has ‘no place in the courtroom’.
The sanction came after a complaint from lawyer Flavio Hernandez, who described the rainbow flag as a “symbol of sexuality” that has “no place in the courtroom”.
Speedlin Gonzalez says she was also ordered to stop using a colourful pen and remove a trim from her robes — which weren’t even in the colours of the rainbow flag.
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She said: “The pen and the strip on my robe did not even follow the sequence of the rainbow. It was just colourful. We feel they overreached.”
The judge has said she will appeal the sanction against her, which has not yet been made public by the conduct body.
Her attorney Deanna Whitley said: “Elected officials, including judges, have a First Amendment right, which they do not forfeit upon election. If the commission is going to enforce these issues, it should not be limited to an LGBTQ judge. It should be across the board.”
Another Texas judge is seeking the right to be homophobic in public.
While Speedlin Gonzalez is fighting for the right to celebrate her own identity, another judge in the state wants the right to make clear his “disapproval” of “homosexual conduct”.
Texas judge Brian Keith Umphress last month filed a lawsuit against the State Commission on Judicial Conduct — arguing that it violates the civil rights of judges to punish them for statements about gay people.
The lawsuit contends that it “violates the constitutional rights of judges” to in any way hold anti-gay beliefs against him — comparing such views to a dislike for paedophiles.