Washington, D.C., July 18, 2011—Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement in the wake of the vote by the United States Senate to confirm J. Paul Oetken as judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York:
Today marked an historic moment for the federal judiciary as, for the first time, an openly gay man was confirmed as a federal district court judge. The nomination and confirmation of J. Paul Oetken removes one of the final barriers to full and active participation of LGBT individuals in public life. Although gay men and lesbians have long served as judges, the barrier of silence and secrecy has now fallen, and highly qualified LGBT candidates for federal judgeships need no longer fear the nomination process or hide the truth of their lives.
President Obama is to be commended for continuing his effort to ensure that all Americans, without exception, have an opportunity to serve their nation from the federal bench. The President has, by far, the strongest record on diversity in his judicial nominations of any president in history, and his selection of Judge Oetken continues that trend.
Although today’s confirmation was groundbreaking, another kind of history continues to be made, however, as the judicial confirmation process has once again ground to a virtual halt in the Senate. Paul Oetken is the only lifetime judicial nominee to be confirmed during the past four weeks, leaving 21 of his colleagues languishing in an increasingly dysfunctional Senate and awaiting their final vote. Although we are overjoyed that the Southern District of New York has a brilliant new judge, the rest of America’s courts deserve the same.
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