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Senate Committee Advances Gay Judicial Nominee

Senate Committee Advances Gay Judicial Nominee


The Senate judiciary committee unanimously approved the nomination of J. Paul Oetken Thursday, moving him one step closer to becoming the first openly gay man to serve on the federal bench.

The Washington Blade reports on the voice vote for Oetken, who was nominated in January by President Barack Obama for U.S. district judge for the southern district of New York.

"Now that the panel has approved the Oetken nomination, it will head to the Senate floor, where support from 60 senators is needed for his confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office didn't respond on a short notice to request on a comment on when the nomination would see a floor vote," reports the Blade.

Oetken currently serves as associate general counsel at Cablevision. A graduate of Yale Law School, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. He also served as associate counsel to President Bill Clinton from 1999 to 2001, where he specialized in First Amendment issues, presidential appointments, ethics, civil rights, and legal policy, and he later practiced law at Debevoise and Plimpton.

U.S. senator Charles Schumer of New York, who recommended the nomination, issued a statement following the vote to advance Oetken and another nominee recommended for the southern district, Paul Engelmayer.

"With today's voice vote in the Judiciary Committee, J. Paul Oetken and Paul Engelmayer now face virtually certain confirmation on the Senate floor," said Schumer. "Both Mr. Oetken and Mr. Engelmayer have the sterling credentials and distinguished record of service to make fine judges on the southern district bench, and I look forward to voting to confirm them as soon as possible."

The news release from Senator Schumer added, "Oetken is also a member of and strong advocate for the LGBT community. In addition to his involvement with Lambda Legal and the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Project, Oetken co-authored a Supreme Court amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Lawrence v Texas which struck down a discriminatory law in Texas."

President Obama also has nominated Edmund Dumont, who is gay, to serve as an appellate judge on the U.S. court of appeals for the federal circuit, but his nomination awaits a hearing. Last week the president nominated Alison Nathan, an out lesbian, for a judgeship in the southern district of New York.

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