Mary Rowland, an out lesbian attorney who has argued high-profile civil rights cases has been appointed to serve as a U.S. Magistrate judge in the Northern District of Illinois.
Rowland takes the bench in October. She is one of few out LGBT people to be appointed to serve as a federal judge in the country.
Rowland, a partner at Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., served as a federal defender for a decade, before taking on high-profile civil cases. Rowland's firm had a hand in the winning case against the City of Chicago on behalf of African-American firefighter applicants who alleged discriminatory hiring practices as well as a case against a Sioux Falls, S.D. practice of strip-searching all juvenile detainees.
"I have been involved in what some would call controversial cases," said Rowland.
Rowland is included on the Illinois Super Lawyer list for 2012 and is a member of the board of directors of the Federal Bar Association. She is also a member of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and has done volunteer work for Lambda Legal.
A native of Akron, Ohio, Rowland graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, where she met her wife Julie Justicz. The two were married in California in 2008.
Rowland said she has wanted to serve as a judge for a long time.
"I think it's a position of great public trust, and I'm honored that they chose me to do it," she said.
Rowland was selected along with attorney Daniel Martin out of more than 65 applicants, according to a statement from the Northern District.
"Each of the recommended finalists was well-qualified to serve as a United States Magistrate Judge," said Chief Judge James Holderman in the statement. "We district judges were very fortunate to have such excellent candidates from whom to choose our district's next United States Magistrate Judges."
Rowland said she never felt that being openly gay limited her professionally, nor does she believe it will be an issue for her as a federal judge. She cites several cases in which attorneys unsuccessfully argued that a judge's identity presented a conflict of interest, including the Proposition 8 case, when same-sex marriage opponents argued Judge Vaughn Walker was biased because he is gay.
Asked if she could see a situation in which she might be forced to rule against her conscience, Rowland said she could not.
"I don't think you rule against your conscience," she said. "My conscience is that I have a belief in this system."