Texas lesbian judge forced to remove Pride flag in court
An out lesbian judge in Texas, Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, is being ordered by a state commission to remove a rainbow Pride flag from her courtroom because it shows “bias.”
In 2018, Gonzalez was the first openly LGBTQ judge to be elected in Bexar County, Texas. When she was elected, she had assured voters that her queer identity wouldn’t interfere with her duties.
Reacting to the order, Gonzalez, who presides over Bexar County Court 13 in San Antonio, said: “It felt like they were trying to shame me and bully me into not expressing who I truly am. It felt like a kick in the gut.”
Lesbian judge with a rainbow flag
Gonzalez’s problems started when criminal defense attorney Flavio Hernandez claimed that displaying a Pride flag in her courtroom showed bias against those against LGBTQ rights.
Hernandez filed two official complaints against Gonzalez: a motion to recuse the judge from presiding over any of his cases due to possible “conflict of interest,” and a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Hernandez described the flag as a “symbol of sexuality” that has “no place in the courtroom.” He further compared it to flags of “white supremacy (swastikas), or black slavery (confederacy)” in a statement.
“I may not be able to turn the dark tide of immorality sweeping through our nation like a virus. But in my small way, I voiced my support of traditional American family values,” Hernandez told San Antonio Express News.
Hernandez said Gonzalez “abuses her power and office in causing all citizens under her influence, including our citizens who do not share her views, to submit themselves to the symbol of her preferred sexual orientation.”
The State Commission sided with Hernandez and issued Gonzalez a private warning not only to remove the flag but also any colorful items in her court, including a pen and the trim of her robes.
Lesbian judge plans to fight back
Gonzalez isn’t taking this sitting down and has hired an attorney to appeal the decision, saying this is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
“Judges all over the state of Texas have a right to express their First Amendment rights. They don’t lose that right when they become elected,” said Deanna Whitley, Gonzalez’s attorney, in a statement.
“Judges might have a Mothers Against Drunk Driving emblem or they might have a cross or they might have a bible or a flag with a thin blue line. There was no showing that Rosie was, in any ruling, biased in favor of or against anyone,” Whitley said.
Whitley added: “If the commission is going to enforce these issues, it should not be limited to an LGBTQ judge. It should be across the board.”
Meanwhile, Gonzalez told Texas Lawyer: “Everyone is welcome into this courtroom. That was the symbolism behind that flag.”
In reaction to the Commission’s decision, Gonzalez said: “The pen and the strip on my robe did not even follow the sequence of the rainbow. It was just colorful. We feel they overreached.”
She also called Hernandez’s complaint and the commission’s decision in his favor as “homophobia in its most transparent, clear definition.”