Texas may soon break historical ground with its first openly gay U.S. attorney.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lee Pitman of Austin was recently nominated as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, which covers 50 counties and its cities, including Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.
In naming his appointees, Obama pointed to their achievements as a reason for their selections.
“These nominees have proven to be tenacious and diligent in their pursuit of justice and I am honored to nominate them to serve their fellow Americans as U.S. attorneys,” Obama said in a letter sent to the Justice Department and Texas senators.
The federal prosecutor nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and the appointment lasts for four years. If confirmed, Pitman would become the chief federal law enforcement officer in his area and would supervise more than 100 assistant U.S. attorneys and their support personnel. U.S. Attorneys are the chief prosecutors for the United States in criminal law cases, and represent the United States in civil law cases as either the defendant or plaintiff, as appropriate. They and their offices are part of the Department of Justice.
Pitman’s achievements seem to have made an impact on U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Despite their poor records in support of GLBT people, the two recommended Pitman for the San Antonio-based position in 2009.
According to an Austin American-Statesman story in 2003, Pitman served as interim United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas in 2001 before becoming the chief deputy for George W. Bush appointee Johnny Sutton. He is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and was a law clerk for Judge David Belew Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. He is also an adjunct professor at the UT School of Law.
Michael McCrum, a San Antonio-based lawyer with the Thompson & Knight law firm, was also recommended by the senators for the position, but he was passed over by Obama.
Kevin McLaughlin, Cornyn’s spokesperson, told The Dallas Morning News in 2009 that Pitman’s sexual orientation was not an issue in the senator’s decision.
“A person’s sexuality has no bearing on his qualifications for a job,” he said.
“It’s just not even remotely considered,” he added.
Hutchison’s spokesperson said he wasn’t sure if the senator knew of Pitman’s sexual orientation, but Texas Home School Coalition president Tim Lambert told The Morning News in 2009 that he found the recommendation “very unusual and disturbing.”