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Houston’s Steven Kirkland Wants to be the 1st Gay Justice on the Texas Supreme Court

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It’s official: Openly gay Judge Steven Kirkland of Houston is running for Texas Supreme Court.

Kirkland, a Democrat who currently serves as judge of Harris County’s 334th Civil District Court, formally announced Thursday that he’s running for the Place 2 seat held by Justice Don Willett.

Willett was recently nominated by President Donald Trump to serve on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, Willett has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, so he is seeking re-election to his Texas Supreme Court seat.

Known for his use of Twitter, Willett is staunchly conservative and once compared same-sex marriage to people marrying bacon. The nine current members of the Texas Supreme Court are elected statewide and are all Republican. The court recently defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell by ruling unanimously that same-sex couples aren’t necessarily entitled to equal government benefits. The city of Houston has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under state law, Kirkland is not required to resign his seat in order to seek the higher office. His announcement is below.

Harris County Judge Steven Kirkland Announces Candidacy for Texas Supreme Court Justice, Place 2

HOUSTON – Texas Civil District Court Judge Steven Kirkland announced today his candidacy for Texas Supreme Court Justice, Place 2. Kirkland will run in the Democratic primary election on March 6, 2018. The general election is held on November 6, 2018.

“Justice demands the highest standards,” said Kirkland. “Our courts today are falling short.” 

“Too many judges have forgotten they serve the people, not political parties. Texans deserve better,” Kirkland continued. “Changing the system is tough, but improving the quality of judges doesn’t have to be.”

Kirkland has served as a judge in the municipal and district courts for 12 years. He was appointed Municipal Judge for the City of Houston in 2001. Kirkland was elected in 2008 as judge of the 215th Civil District Court and served until 2012 He was elected in 2016 as judge of the 334th Civil District Court, where he serves today. His cases range from complicated commercial contract disputes to personal injuries in an auto accident to tax delinquencies.

Kirkland has been recognized for developing and implementing Houston’s innovative Homeless Recovery Court, which allows people who are working through programs at various homeless shelters to clear up delinquent traffic tickets and other Class C misdemeanor warrants by performing community service at their shelters.

Kirkland has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, co-founding the Avenue Community Development Corporation that has built or restored more than 350 units of affordable housing. He has served on numerous boards and commissions promoting equitable redevelopment, protecting the environment from polluters, encouraging recovery from alcohol addiction and fighting to end discrimination against LGBT people.

“My parents taught me always to fight against injustice. Serving my state on its highest court is the right place to carry that fight forward,” said Kirkland.

Kirkland also announced early endorsements by these leaders:

    • Sylvia Garcia, State Senator
    • Borris Miles, State Senator
    • John Whitmire, State Senator
    • Alma Allen, State Representative
    • Carol Alvarado, State Representative
    • Garnet Coleman, State Representative
    • Jessica Farrar, State Representative
    • Mary Gonzalez, State Representative
    • Ana Hernandez, State Representative
    • Celia Israel, State Representative
    • Armando “Mando” Martinez, State Representative
    • Sergio Munoz, State Representative
    • Armando Walle, State Representative
    • Gene Wu, State Representative
    • Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner
    • Ramon Garcia, Hidalgo County Judge
    • Sheriff Eddie Guerra, Hidalgo County Sheriff
    • Annise Parker, former Houston Mayor

Learn more at www.JudgeStevenKirkland.com.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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