History Check: Judge Benjamin J.F. Cruz
A correction is necessary regarding the confirmation of Justice Maite Oronoz Rodriguez as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. All the best information accessed by the news media was that Chief Justice Oronoz Rodriguez is the first openly LGBT Chief Judge in the United States. The response of a Founding Member of the Association was that Retired Judge Benjamin J.F. Cruz, current Vice-Speaker of the Guam Legislature, was actually the first openly LGBT Judge to serve as Chief Judge. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam from April 21, 1999 until his retirement from the judiciary August 31, 2001.
A May 3, 2013 resolution of the Guam Judicial Council granting Judge Cruz the Guam Judiciary Hustisia Award includes the following regarding his some of his accomplishments:
Cruz was appointed to the Superior Court of Guam in 1984 by Governor Bordallo, where he spent ten years of his term presiding over Juvenile and Family Court. During his term on the Juvenile and Family Court, then-Judge Cruz took very seriously and personally his role in helping our island’s youth escape a life of crime and abuse, rendering hundreds of decisions which changed lives, helped families heal, and taught troubled youth to respect the law. Cruz was elevated to the newly created Guam Supreme Court by Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez in 1997, becoming the first openly gay Chief Justice of any state court in the United States, standing thus as a pioneer to many beyond Guam’s shores.
After retiring from the bench, Cruz was elected Senator in 2004, serving in the 28th through 32nd Guam Legislatures, where he presently serves as Vice Speaker. He is credited with leadership on difficult but non-partisan issues, among which were increasing Guam’s minimum wage; strengthening Guam’s alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse laws; and repealing the statute of limitations for the prosecution of criminal sexual offenses against children. Vice Speaker Cruz has been open about his own struggle to overcome childhood sexual abuse, and this struggle in particular has driven his determination to protect children from abuse.
We also celebrate Judge Cruz!