A lesbian judge in Texas was sanctioned for flying a rainbow flag in her courtroom, but she’s fighting back by appealing the decision.
Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez in Bexar County, Texas is now battling the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. The Commission instructed her to remove the rainbow flag, claiming that it broke rules about impartiality. One lawyer complained that it was a “symbol of sexuality” and even compared it to a swastika, according to Metro Weekly.
“Everyone is welcome into this courtroom,” Gonzalez told Texas Lawyer. “That was the symbolism behind that flag.”
In addition to flying a rainbow flag, Gonzalez used a rainbow pen and mousepad and wore a strip of bright colors on her robe. The Commission also instructed her to stop using or wearing these.
Gonzalez called the decision an “overreach” and pointed out that the colors on her robe aren’t a reference to LGBTQ+ Pride but to her Mexican heritage. “The pen and the strip on my robe did not even follow the sequence of the rainbow,” Gonzalez said. “It was just colorful.”
Other judges also wear colorful robes and display flags in their courtrooms, Gonzalez noted. One judge, for example, has an Irish flag on display. In addition to the rainbow flag, Gonzalez has a Texas flag and a U.S. flag.
Gonzalez’s lawyer, Deanna Whitley, is appealing the sanction. “Elected officials, including judges, have a First Amendment right, which they do not forfeit upon election,” Whitley said. “If the Commission is going to enforce these issues, it should not be limited to an LGBTQ judge. It should be across the board.”
“[Singling] out a symbol or flag for display because of its content…violates the First Amendment,” added First Amendment litigator Chip Babcock.
Gonzalez made history in Bexar County in 2018 when she became the first openly gay judge to be elected in the county.