The Hon, Paul Oetken has become the first openly gay man confirmed by the United States Senate to an Article III Federal judgeship. Article III judges sit by virtue of the United States Constitution as members of a co-equal branch of the federal government, and have lifetime tenure.
While this is not the first appointment of an openly gay Article III judge -- Judge Deborah Batts was nominated by President Clinton in 1994 and confirmed by the Senate -- it is nonetheless another important milestone in the acceptance of gay people in our national politics.
As noted in MetroWeekly, Judge Oetken most recently served as senior vice president and associate general counsel of Cablevision Systems Corporation. Prior to that, he was a lawyer at the New York offices of Debevoise & Plimpton, a major international law firm. In the 1990s, under the Clinton Administration, he was associate counsel to the White House, after serving in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel.
Judge Oetken is not the first openly gay man to be appointed as a federal judge. The Hon. Joseph Gale was appointed by President Clinton under Article I of the U.S. Constitution to serve on the United States Tax Court, a part of the executive branch of government.
According to MetroWeekly, all Democrats voting approved the nomination, with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) the sole Democrat not voting. A majority of the Senate Republican caucus -- 28 members -- voted to approve the nomination, with 13 Republicans opposing the nomination and six members not voting.