Judge Mary M. Rowland came out in the 1980s, as the HIV epidemic gave rise to a renewed anti-LGBTQ movement across America.
“HIV was rampant, and fear and hate were rampant. Going to pride events was a place where I would feel safe,” said Rowland, who serves as a U.S. district judge in the Northern District of Illinois.
In recognition of LGBTQ Pride Month, a new video profile explores Rowland’s experience coming out, her pursuit of a career in law, and the social change she has seen.
“We’ve come a long way baby,” said Rowland on the progress of the LGBTQ community. “We’re passing the baton to a wonderful younger generation and they’re not as patient as my generation was.”
Rowland said it took a while for her parents to come to terms with her sexual identity and explained how their religious beliefs brought them a tremendous amount of stress and fear for her safety.
She hopes her example encourages others to be open about their sexual and gender identity in the workplace. “[Initially] as someone who was closeted when I worked, it’s not healthy,” Rowland said. “You’re constantly lying about who you are.”
Rowland became a district judge in 2019. She previously had served as a U.S. magistrate judge for the Northern District of Illinois since 2012.
Learn about the first openly LGBTQ judge in the federal Judiciary and other Pride Month resources.
Related Topics: Judicial History
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