Anti-Gay Community Very Worried About Lesbian Judge’s Opinion on Gay People

Although gay and lesbian couples can be happily civil unionized in Illinois, that isn’t enough. In late May over two dozen gay and lesbian couples filed a combined lawsuit against the state demanding marriage equality in the state, where marriage is still legally defined as a union between one man and one woman.

This means the fate of gay marriage is once again on the table, like it has been in various states and entire countries over and over again. But unlike the many cases before it, Illinois’ gay marriage debate will include Sophia Hall, a Cook County Circuit Court Judge. Hall is openly gay.

In many cases, fighting for justice means overwhelming or overcoming the people in power, and typically that is because people in power don’t look like you or love like you. Being a member of a marginalized community means having to be louder than people in power, being stronger than people in power, and being more organized than people in power. It means getting in through the back door and knocking everything off the table and saying, “We have finally made it. We are finally here. And you will finally listen.”

Hall’s presence in the Illinois debate, then, is remarkable and, in many ways, unique. Unlike cases before hers, where a bunch of presumably old white, straight, cisgender dudes decided the fate of thousands of gay and lesbian couples looking to have a life together, Hall brings to the table a legacy of out gay activism and advocacy and a more personal perspective on the issue of same-sex marriage: she is a charter member of the Alliance of Illinois Judges, an organization that encompasses LGBT rights, and openly affiliates with The Victory Fund.

Anti-gay activists are upset about Hall’s ability to legislate on an issue previously unlegislated on by those it affects. Professor Rena Lindevaldsen, Associate Dean of the Liberty University School of Law and former defender of an ex-gay kidnapper, called Hall’s sexuality a “conflict of interest”:

“Judge Hall is presiding over a case that seeks to fundamentally alter the meaning of marriage in Illinois. As a Charter Member of the Alliance of Illinois Judges, which is an organization dedicated to LGBT causes, she has an obvious conflict of interest. Pursuant to the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge must disqualify herself in any case where her “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” (Rule 63-Cannon 3). If the tables were turned and she was a charter member of an organization that had as its mission to overturn Roe v. Wade and she was presiding over a case where the validity of Roe was in question, there would be incredible outcry to have her removed from the case. Given the significance of the case before her, Judge Hall should take steps to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest, and recuse herself.”

In an Americans for Truth About Homosexuality blog post, Scott Lively, an attorney and founder of Defend the Family International who has encouraged homophobic policies in Uganda, was quoted as saying that nobody could “reasonably expect an open lesbian and member of a ‘gay rights’ advocacy group to be impartial on the issue of ‘gay marriage.'” He said that if Hall had any respect for the judicial system, she would recuse herself. It is now a request being echoed among anti-gays in Illinois and especially Cook County. His quote was followed with “evidence” of her “gay agenda,” embellished in MS Paint.

Because remember – bias is when a gay person rules on gay people. When heterosexual “academics” who work at openly homophobic campuses and base their knowledge and policy opinions in religious texts despite our secular justice system rule on gay people, or even when straight people rule on issues  that affect them as straight people — well, that’s just how shit works here. Despite the obvious and flagrant homophobia being espoused in an attempt to, essentially, silence homos in the justice or legal system at-large piece-by-piece, what is most disturbing about the invented “controversy” over Hall’s sexuality is that it represents a larger belief present in American society: the belief that only those who have historically been granted power and privilege deserve a voice, or are able to correctly judge on issues that affect marginalized communities.

It is not the first time a homophobe has asserted that gay people don’t know what’s best for the country, or that they are unable to legislate on gay issues because they represent an opinion vastly different than the rampant homophobia of our culture at-large. When the issue came up during Prop 8 regarding Vaughn Walker’s sexuality, California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called calls for recuse “dangerous” and warned that to set a precedent of refusing gay people a seat at the gay decisions table would be harmful and wrong. This is no different. “If the suggestion is that Judge Hall cannot, based on mere assertion, decide this case fairly and based upon the law, we simply disagree,” said Edwin C. Yohnka, director of communications and public policy at ACLU of Illinois in an email to On Top Magazine. “Judge Hall has an excellent reputation as a careful jurist.”

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. So basically you can only make rules about gay people if you are not a gay people? That’s what I’m getting out of this quote.

  2. Oh, so it’s not biased to let a conservative, homophobic, maybe sexist men judge something to do with lesbians? Yeah, that makes sense.

  3. Carmen you deserve a non-awkward shoulder pat for the second to last paragraph, and if I knew you better an ass pat. That rant was AMAZING!

  4. Oh my days, I love Americans For Truth so very much. I can never actually get through an entire article without flipping out and Hulk smashing my laptop, but their picture policy is absolutely priceless. Observe:
    Close up of genital warts? A-okay!
    These two guys getting freaky in the street? They’re gonna colourise that shit!
    But Klaine kissing? No way are they having that kind of thing on their respectable website.

    • Incidentally, while going through some of their old articles because I obviously hate myself and want to be sad forever, I found a single reference to a donation drive to raise $10,000 in the month of March. Given that this has never, ever been mentioned again, I can only assume they pretty spectacularly did not raise $10,000. A quick check over on Indiegogo informs me that we raised over $40,000 in less than 24 hours. JUST SAYIN’.

    • So apparently, male genital diseases are more prevalent amongst couples in which both partners have male genitals than in couples where none or one of them do.

    • every single one of those illnesses I have seen in straight and gay men and women. The sexually active and the non sexually active.

      And “Reading details of the beatings is highly disturbing” no matter who the perpetrator and who the victim. Yes some gay men are violent, some straight women are violent towards their partner. This is a problem as the support services are not established yet for men, and by their very gender they are excluded from most womens projects. But this is off topic.

      oooh and look at the air quotes around “hate crimes”.

      *goes and fumes somewhere quietly in the corner* hate filled pile of garbage, medical transcriptionist pretending to have special knowledge *fume fume fume*

  5. Omg. I just love this article. It synthesizes all my feelings on this, and all the feelings I had when there were calls for Judge Walker to recuse himself. You go Carmen. You get the ass pat from me.

  6. This article is perfect. You said it perfectly – if the person was the head of a bunch of anti-gay organizations, they would not blink an eye.

  7. I think we’re all ignoring the most important thing about this article…that Sophia Hall is a silver fox. She’s like lesbian Anderson Cooper!

  8. I have only two real issues with Carmen’s piece. The first is that she uses the word “legislate” when she means “adjudicate.” Judges don’t write laws (legislate); they decide whether one side or other is legally correct based on current legislation (laws), case law (clarifications of legislation that has been through a judicial process (a trial about its validity), and the Constitution (adjudicate).

    My other issue with Carmen’s piece isn’t really about the piece it’s about the whole use of the word “homophobia” in the common parlance and how the folks pushing the “homosexual agenda” (or as I like to call it “civil rights”) use the word instead of the proper words, which are “hate” and “bigotry.”

    See, I’m homophobic. I have an irrational negative reaction when I think about gay stuff. It’s irrational and not controllable, like arachnophobia or claustrophobia or any other phobia… It’s a phobia. The nomenclature is accurate when it’s called homophobia. You should hate me as much as you hate anyone who is deathly afraid of spiders or elevators… My reaction could be really irritating, but that’s it.

    The problem I have with Carmen and the whole movement is that you guys are trying to use a buzz word inaccurately. Because the real problem is that when people use “logic” and “learning” and “the Bible” to rationalize their irrational emotional reaction. They justify their phobia by calling the thing they’re phobic about “evil” and “wrong” and “bad.” The proper definition is bigot, hate-monger, douche-bag.

    When “you” say homophobes are the problem, you include me… and that makes you wrong. What you need to be saying is that hate-filled, close-minded, un-American zealots are the problem. Every time you call me the problem, it hurts me… and it hurts you.

    There are soooo many hate-filled, close-minded, un-American zealots who are *not* homophobic that you seem to not care about when you’re out there hurting me.

    Use the right words. The right words are important in any debate. You use homophobe as if it were a slur. It’s not. It’s the description of a psychological condition… and that’s all it is.

    • I agree with you, to a degree, but I also have to say…’welcome to our world’. ‘Gay’ is used so strongly as a slur, as something offensive, so much so that there are PSA’s out there discouraging it’s use along with ‘retarded’.

      It’s a difficult mental bump to get over. In the meantime, those of us who end up on the end of these sorts of things have to have thick skin, and realize when the useage isn’t meant as an insult to all of us.

    • Ok, I don’t have any kind of professional training in psychology and you most probably know yourself better than I do, but I have trouble believing in homophobia as a real phobia. I’ve heard of a whole bunch of weird phobias and have a few myself, but never once have I heard of a phobia about a specific group of (coincidentally marginalized) people one is not a part of.
      Ginger-phobia? Asian-phobia? Left-handed-phobia? People-eating-jello-phobia? Nope, never heard of those. Then why should I believe in homophobia?

      So until I am given proof through peer-reviewed independant studies conducted by trained experts that yes, some people really are homophobic and it has absolutely nothing to do with the way homosexuality is negatively viewed and portrayed in our culture and the way we’re indoctrined to associate it with “wrongness”, personally I’m going to keep thinking that close-minded hateful bigots and homophobes are one and the same.

    • No one cares if they’re hurting your feelings. Don’t read articles on lesbian websites if you’re homophobic, which of course you’re not, because if you’re actually phobic you’d avoid gay spaces because they TERRIFY you.

      And thanks for asking, but we’ll be using words however we damn well choose. Thanks for trolling.

  9. Yeah, is there anything we can do?? Like a petition, or something, a back rub…

  10. Great article. I am disappointed gay issues like this (cases of institutional homophobia keeping homosexuals from gaining rights) aren’t in larger news agencies. Kudos!

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