It’s been a historic couple of weeks for the transgender legal community.
On Nov. 2, Victoria Kolakowski became the first transgender trial judge in the nation when she won a seat on the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court.
Then, just this morning, longtime Houston activist Phyllis Randolph Frye became the first trans judge in Texas, when Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as an associate municipal judge.
Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports:
Phyllis Randolph Frye, longtime legal advocate for the transgender community, was sworn in this morning as the state’s first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The city council unanimously approved her appointment, along with a couple dozen other appointments, with little fanfare and no dissent.
The significance of the moment was not lost on Mayor Parker who fought back tears as she welcomed the appointees to the council dais. Council member Sue Lovell who, along with Parker and Frye, fought for years as a citizen to improve the lives of queer Houstonians, beamed as she spoke of how far the three of them have come. Several council members specifically thanked Frye for her willingness to serve.
It was only 30 years ago that Frye risked arrest every time she entered City Hall. At that time the City of Houston and most American cities had ordinances criminalizing cross dressing. Frye defied the law to fight for it’s repeal, which finally happened in 1980.
UPDATE: Here’s an e-mail that came across this afternoon from Frye:
Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,
With humility, I wish to share that this morning, October 17, 2010, I was sworn to be an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts. Considering the many and varied discriminations I have borne over the past four decades, this is an honor that has great significance both for me and for the OUT-Transgender community.
For those of you who are not familiar, let me assure you of what this means and what it does not mean.
It means that I an assistant judge for the city courthouse. I will be scheduled to do night court dockets and weekend probable cause dockets in rotation with other Associate Judges. And from time to time I will sit as Judge in a trial, substituting for an ill or vacationing Judge. The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are offenses that can be ticketed in this, the 4th largest city in the nation. This is a great honor. I thank Mayor Parker for nominating me and the City Council for unanimously confirming me through a scheduled Council vote.
(NOTE: Mine is the second position where an OUT-TG has been appointed to a City of Houston position. The first was Jenifer Rene Pool on the city’s Buildings and Inspections Oversight Commission. Jenifer has recently announced that she is running for City Council At-Large #2 — the incumbent will be term-limited — in November 2011. If you desire to wish her well or to send her a contribution, she is at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> .)
(NOTE: Mine is not the first OUT-TG Judgeship. I think there are a few other appointed OUT-TG municipal judges across the country. Last month in California, Vicki Kolakowski was elected to a Judgeship, and I think that she will be sworn in January. Congratulations to Vicki.)
My being Associate Municipal Judge DOES NOT MEAN that I will give up my “day-job.”
I WILL REMAIN as senior partner of Frye and Associates at www.liberatinglaw.com <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/> .
Our firm will continue to provide a variety of legal services for the LGBT and Straight-Allies community. And our firm will continue to fight the Nikki Araguz case, of which many of you have followed.
I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more Mayors or other appointive bodies to give OUT-TG lawyers a chance to be appointed to various judicial posts across the nation. I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more OUT-TG lawyers will run for elected Judgeships.
NEVER GIVE UP!
For more go to http://www.legislativequeery.com/2010/11/trans-pioneer-phyllis-frye-becomes.html
Phyllis Randolph Frye
THE PHYLLABUSTER <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/>