Judge Maria McLaughlin Never Forgot Where She Came From

With Pittsburghers gearing up to cast their votes for a new mayor in what could be a historic election, Judge Maria McLaughlin urges voters not to ignore the top of the ticket as it is yet another chance to make history. If Judge McLaughlin wins the election for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it will be the first time the Court is led by a majority of women since its creation in 1722. “I’m the only one of the candidates who can make history, and after three hundred years I think it’s about time. I can’t even imagine being able to make history in that way.”

McLaughlin’s judicial philosophy centers around transcending politics and embracing her passionate beliefs of inclusion, dignity, and respect. “Pennsylvanians want to see somebody who is willing to include everybody, not exclude anybody, and keep themselves grounded.”

The core of her campaign revolves around words she never forgot from her immigrant father, who was an Army veteran: “Maria, never forget where you came from.” She grew up in the Overbrook area of West Philadelphia but has made connections throughout the state as she studied Public Policy at Penn State University thanks to a cheerleading scholarship and various part-time jobs and traveling to all 67 Pennsylvania counties as she successfully campaigned for a seat on the Superior Court. She has come to love Pittsburgh and said she feels like a regular at La Prima Espresso in the Strip District.

The nation’s spotlight has been focused on this Supreme Court election, which is the first of its kind since 2017. Judge McLaughlin is determined to take the seat being left vacant due to the mandatory retirement of Justice Thomas G. Saylor, a Republican. The stakes are high as issues like voting rights, reproductive rights, congressional maps, and more could find their way before the Court. “I am the candidate with the largest breadth of experience. I was a prosecutor in Philadelphia for nineteen years, and when I left there I also did defense. As a trial judge in Philadelphia, I did family law, criminal law, election law, and labor law. I have all the experience of a Superior Court Judge sitting in the largest judicial district,” said McLaughlin, explaining that moving to the PA Supreme Court is a natural progression for her.

Performing same-sex marriages is one of the beacons of pride in the span of Judge McLaughlin’s career so far. “I was at the forefront, volunteering.” Her eagerness to officiate in Pennsylvania came after she married childhood friends in another state when gay marriage was still illegal in Pennsylvania. “I have always been proud to run with the support of the LGBTQ community. Again, I am a big proponent of inclusivity and equality.”

She has received endorsements from various LGBTQ organizations and individuals like the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and Jim DePoe of Pittsburgh and State Representatives Brian Sims and Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia. Kenyatta is serving her campaign as an honorary co-chair.

“I wouldn’t be a judge without you [the LGBTQ community] because your activism and standing with me has made me win. I have so many friends and allies in this community. I am so proud of your support of me, and I am so proud to be an ally of yours.”

Judge McLaughlin also has been highly recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association and is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, PA Firefighters, The Allegheny County Black Democratic Caucus, Congressman Conor Lamb, John and Gisele Fetterman, and many more. “I am the justice who will protect the rights of everyone.”

Judge McLaughlin senses fear from her opponent’s side as negative commercials on cable and mailers are being released by Judge Kevin Brobson. Her disappointment with these advertisements stems from the fact that judicial candidates are held at a higher standard. She is determined to focus her energy on positivity and a message of uniting to secure her seat on the Supreme Court. However, she says, “This is no landslide. I need you to go to the top of the ticket and spread the word.”

The humbling words from her father come to Judge McLaughlin’s mind as she prepares to take the bench. “I zip up that black robe by myself, but I never forget the village it took to get me here, and I never forget that I wear it for everyone. The LGBTQ community has been a part of that village every step of the way through my judicial career.”

Drew Praskovich is a writer and filmmaker born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Drew's work for QBurgh has been nominated for a Golden Quill Award from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. His short film, Seahorse, about a pregnant boy, has been screened around the world from the South Asia's biggest LGBQTIA+ film festival KASHISH Mumbai to NFFTY in Seattle, WA where it took home the Audience Award. His writing has been seen in TABLE Magazine, The Pittsburgh City Paper, and more. He currently resides in Beechview. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. (he / him / his)