Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission announces new co-chair, two new members

Judge Seth Marnin listens to speakers before getting sworn in.
Judge Seth Marnin listens to speakers before getting sworn in.
Donna Aceto

Rowan Wilson, chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, has announced a new co-chair and two new members of the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission, which advocates for New York’s LGBTQ community in the courts and legal system.

Out Judge Grace Hanlon, who serves in the New York Supreme Court’s Eighth Judicial District, will serve as the upstate co-chair of the LGBTQ Commission alongside downstate co-chair Karen Lupuloff, a supervising judge in New York County Family Court. She succeeds Joanne M. Winslow, an associate justice in the Appellate Division, Fourth Department.

The two new appointments to the commission, announced on Nov. 16, were Court of Claims Judges Seth Marnin, the first out trans man in the country to serve as a judge and first trans judge in New York; and Javier Vargas, who in 2022 became the first out gay and Latino person to be a judge on the Court of Claims. 

The commission was named in honor of Richard C. Failla, the first out gay person to be appointed to New York City Criminal Court by Mayor Ed Koch in 1985. Throughout his career Failla developed a reputation for helping queer people in court, and went on to become the first out gay state Supreme Court justice elected in New York. 

“I am delighted to announce the appointments of these three outstanding jurists to the Failla Commission, whose work is so crucial to the court system’s efforts to ensure equal access to justice and foster a diverse, inclusive work environment,” Wilson said in a written statement.

In November 2021 Hanlon became the first out person elected to the Supreme Court’s Eighth Judicial District.

“It is an honor to be named co-chair of this commission, to continue the work of past chairs, and to continue to allow people like me to celebrate who they are and not hide in the shadows,” Hanlon said in a written statement. 

Marnin, who was just appointed to the Court of Claims earlier this year, said he was excited for his appointment.

“Increasing the presence and visibility of LGBTQ personnel in the court system and on the bench helps fulfill our ultimate mission: that all persons be treated with respect and dignity when they come before New York’s court system,” he said. 

Vargas said he was “grateful” to Chief Justice Wilson for the appointment.

“As a young gay man, I encountered limited opportunities in my hometown of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and decided to come to New York on my own, not only to go to college and pursue better prospects, but also to live my life openly without fear,” Vargas said.“It’s a tremendous honor being appointed to such an important State Commission.”