I'm not much for talking about what other states do, because I'm a New Jersey practitioner and because I, for the most part, work with New Jersey laws. But when something happens that affects what I do even indirectly, from across the country, I think it's pretty noteworthy.
It's no secret that I'm a progressive and forward thinking person who believes that change is the essential essence of life. As a science-minded person, I know that every physicist, chemist and biologist will tell you that it is an axiom for their fields of endeavor that change is the absolute and unalterable state of the universe. Nothing ever stays the same. Things always move forward. Since there is no ability to move backward because time only flows in one direction, all change is forward and therefore, all change is progressive.
I don't mean this to sound like I'm founding a new religion. For me, it's all just basic common sense. In order to make things better, you have to move forward. Sometimes, people will get it wrong, but mostly, I think if everyone has an open heart and an open mind, change is a good thing.
Take California, for example, which just elected its first transgendered judge. On one level, that sounds momentous. It is momentous. Of course, it's sad why it's momentous, the answer of course being that there is a tremendous amount of prejudice against sexual minorities. Transgendered people, in turn, are often the red-headed stepchildren of the sexual minority community. As openly permissible as it is for the most bigoted conservatives to publicly lambast sexual minorities today, it is even more acceptable to do so with regard to transgendered people, because to the ignorant, uninformed and afraid, transgendered people are abominations, barely even human. So it is momentous that California, usually at the front of the march, has finally broken another glass ceiling for sexual minorities.
Judge Victoria Kolakowski declared victory Monday night in a race for the Alameda County Superior Court, she having won by a fifty-one to forty-eight percent vote. Hardly a mandate, but then again, today, mandates are becoming increasingly rare.
Did some people vote for her because she is transgendered? Perhaps, though probably a minority. In fact, I'm sure that minority percentage was probably matched by the number of people that voted against her for the same reason.
So yes, it's "momentous." On the other hand, why should it be so? Why couldn't people have simply looked at Judge Kolakowski's credentials, compared them favorably against her opponent's, and selected the best judicial candidate for the job? The belief that gives me hope is that, in all likelihood, most of the people who did the voting probably did just that, just as I'm sure that most of the people that voted in the last presidential election voted based on party affiliation, beliefs in certain policy positions, etc., rather than on the race of the candidates.
No doubt, there will be people, usually of an extreme religious or socially conservative bent, who feel that a transgendered person is, by her nature, deficient in some moral quality or some other character trait simply because she is a transgendered person. These are the people whose minds have to change, and if they can't change, then those attitudes need to die out. I'm actually hopeful that they will. The new generation that seems to be emerging is so technologically inclined, and so communicatively inclined, and so desperately dependent on the march of science forward to give them the gadgets and conveniences they so love, that I do believe there will come a day when religion worldwide will simply have to adapt itself to a more modern, gentle and non-judgmental progressive planetary culture. Is that an article of faith for me? Almost certainly. I can't see the future. Then again, however, most successful bookies do make a living by predicting it. As a student of the law, and as a student of the culture in which I must serve the law, I keep a keen eye on these things. My vision is certainly lengthening (I just started using reading glasses for the first time), but from what I see, Judge Kolakowski's victory is the shape of things to come more than it's a shout in the darkness.
I applaud Judge Kolakowski and hope that she always, as all judges must, tempers justice with mercy, while protecting the vision of the law, rather than the letter of the law.
I also say to all people who feel as if they are, from time to time, a member of a minority (no matter what the nature of the minority), and all people who feel themselves to be "different" (because at some point, we all are), that, in America, it seems that anything is still possible if you want it badly enough and if you work hard enough.
Congratulations, Judge Kolakowski. I hope you're the first of more to come.
P.S. - After editing this Blog for posting, I learned that another Transgendered judge also took the bench in Texas...in TEXAS. Truly, there is hope for us all.