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Marco Rubio Clears Path for First Black, Openly Gay Federal Judge

Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio

Florida judicial nominee Darrin Gayles just inched a little closer to becoming the nation’s first black, openly gay man to serve as a federal judge.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has given the green light to the Senate Judiciary Committee to proceed with Gayles’ nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a committee aide confirmed.

Specifically, Rubio has submitted his “blue slip” to the committee, a crucial step in the confirmation process whereby a senator can unilaterally approve or block a judicial nominee from his or her home state.

Now that both of Gayles’ senators have submitted their blue slips — Florida Democrat Bill Nelson already turned his in — that signals to committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to move forward with a hearing. Gayles still has to clear the committee and pass the Senate, but Democrats are expected to carry those votes. By turning in his blue slip, Rubio has removed the biggest obstacle to Gayles’ confirmation.

Rubio drew the ire of the black community and LGBT rights groups last year after refusing to turn in his blue slip for another Florida judicial nominee, William Thomas, who was also black and openly gay. His opposition to Thomas was especially puzzling, given that Rubio originally recommended him to Obama, only to turn around and oppose Thomas.

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