In a move that was not without controversy, the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) passed a resolution barring future NAWJ conferences from being held in jurisdictions where LGBTQ protections are repealed or where discriminatory LGBTQ laws are enacted. The measure was passed at the annual conference in Nashville on October 9, but was not announced to the media until Oct. 13.
The measure reads: “RESOLVED, That the National Association of Women Judges will not sponsor or hold any mid-year or annual meetings or conferences in states that have voided or repealed state or local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or have enacted laws that authorize or mandate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
The resolution continues to explain that a current list of those states is available and that “this list shall be updated as necessary and shall conform to the lists maintained by those states which track the enactment of such legislation, including, but not limited to, the State of California Attorney General’s office.”
NAWJ President, the Honorable Elizabeth A. White, made the announcement. White said, “At today’s Annual Business Meeting, NAWJ affirmed the position we have always maintained namely, that we abhor discrimination of any kind, and we vow to continue to support all of our members without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.”
White also said, “Since 1979, NAWJ has been recognized as the premier voice for women jurists in the United States and the only association representing all levels of the judiciary. NAWJ’s mission is to promote the judicial role of protecting the rights of individuals under the rule of law through strong, committed, diverse judicial leadership, fairness and equality in the courts, and equal access to justice.”
But White was among those in opposition to the resolution, which passed narrowly in a 61-56 vote.
According to the Honorable Kristin L. Rosi, Chief Administrative Law Judge at the California Department of Insurance, “Five members spoke in opposition of the Resolution, four of which are NAWJ Board members, including the current Board President, President-Elect, Treasurer and International Director.”
Rosi told PGN, “Of the five members who spoke in opposition, only two are from states on the California Attorney General’s list; one from Texas and one from Florida.”
Rosi is chair of the NAWJ’s LGBTQ Committee.
Tennessee, where the 2021 meeting was held, is among the states listed. The other 17 are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
The International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges released a statement lauding the NAWJ action, calling it a “groundbreaking resolution,” and saying that “The resolution, which was shepherded through the governance process by NAWJ’s LGBTQ Committee, sets a standard for all legal and judicial organizations to consider the personal safety and dignity of all its members when selecting conference or meeting sites.”
Rosi, who is also the LGBTQ+ Judges Vice President, praised the NAWJ’s LGBTQ members and allies. “I am immensely proud of NAWJ’s LGBTQ Committee members. Throughout the effort to ratify this resolution, they have consistently demonstrated profound commitment to equal access and dignity for our LGBTQ+ judges. They have put their personal stories into the public sphere with courage, vulnerability and strength. I applaud and thank them all.”
LGBTQ+ Judges President Judge Tara Flanagan of Alameda County, California, also celebrated the resolution’s passage. Flanagan said, “As judicial officers, we must always consider access and fairness, especially within our own organizations. When judicial meetings are set in states with anti-LGBTQ statutes and ‘bathroom laws’ that prohibit judges from being their authentic selves, or render them fearful of recrimination, we are all diminished. Brava NAWJ for adopting this resolution and setting an example for all to follow.”