Deborah A. Batts, the First Openly Gay Federal Judge, Passes Away At 72


Rick Kopstein

Last Sunday, Deborah A. Batts, the first gay African-american federal judge has sadly passed away. According to a press release from Fordham Law School, she died in her sleep. She leaves behind a wife and two children.


She was the first African-american to receive tenure at Fordham Law where she began to teach at Fordham University in 1984. Batts was a judge for the Southern District of New York and later she was sworn as a US district judge for Manhattan in 1994.

Also in 1994, she was the first LGBTQ judge on the federal bench after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. Batts was also awarded an honorary degree by the CUNY School of Law in 1998 and was a member of the CUNY School of Law Board of Visitors.


Lastly from the words of a Fordham Law representative, Judge Batts was a beloved member of the community and will be missed. They are grateful for her brilliance, passion, and friendship.


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