Making History

Melissa DuBose makes history as Rhode Island’s first out gay Black judge

Melissa DuBose has made history twice, officially becoming Rhode Island’s first out LGBTQ+ judge and first woman of color to serve on the US District Court. DuBose overcame a contentious Senate vote due to her standout record and glowing recommendations.

DuBose is a native Rhode Islander who earned her law degree from Roger Williams University School of Law, according to The Providence Journal. From 2005 and 2008, she served as special assistant attorney general and followed that up as legal counsel for the Schneider Electric company. After teaching history and civics in public high schools for nearly a decade, DuBose has been serving as state District Court judge since 2019.

Following President Biden’s nomination, Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse both recommended DuBose.

“This is a person, a lifelong Rhode Islander, who is exceedingly well regarded in our community,” Whitehouse told senators.

“She’s proven to be an exceptional jurist, with a stellar record,” Reed said, adding, “She has dedicated her life to public service and Rhode Island is fortunate that she has once again answered the call.”

Senate Republicans, however, predictably sought to block the appointment. During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month, Senator John Neely Kennedy attempted to rattle DuBose with an obscure reference to an article from over two decades ago.

“Are you still a Marxist?” Kennedy asked.

“Senator, I have never been a Marxist and I am not a Marxist today,” DuBose answered.

Kennedy then pointed to a 2000 article from Women’s Studies Quarterly in which DuBose is quoted as having gone through a “Marxist phase.” He accused her of withholding that information, but DuBose said that she was “shocked” by the quote and had only just learned of the article that day. Kennedy then proceeded to quiz her on basic judicial terminology. “I preside over trials every day,” DuBose responded.

Judges currently seated on the Rhode Island District court also sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee recommending DuBose. “Melissa’s integrity is beyond reproach; her professional competence is varied and deep; and her judicial temperament is exemplary,” the statement read.  “Everyone on our Court is pleased at the possibility of welcoming Judge DuBose to the federal court if she is fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate.”

Ultimately, the Judiciary Committee approved DuBose in a vote along party lines. On Tuesday, the Senate approved her appointment in a narrow 51-47 vote, with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Lisa Murkowski giving support. She will succeed District Court Judge William E. Smith when he retires on January 1, 2025. 

Don't forget to share:
Read More in Culture
The Latest on INTO