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Lesbian Jurist Alison Nathan Confirmed As Federal Judge Despite GOP Senators

by David Badash on October 13, 2011

in News,Politics

Post image for Lesbian Jurist Alison Nathan Confirmed As Federal Judge Despite GOP Senators

GOP Senators today banded together today in a concerted but failed attempt to kill the federal judgeship nomination of Alison Nathan, a lesbian jurist whose law career spans eleven years. Even Republican Senators considered more moderate, like Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Scott Brown (R-MA) voted against Nathan, but the Democratic majority in the Senate was able to squeak out a 48-44 vote in favor of Nathan, with no Republican Senators voting for Alison Nathan. The GOP lock-step vote is a clear indication of not only how far right even the moderates have become, but how the GOP cannot support a lesbian in any position of power or credibility in today’s America.

President Obama six and a half months ago nominated Alison Nathan to be a federal district judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Before serving as President Obama’s White House Counsel, Nathan held several positions in both public and private practice, and clerked for Associate Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Earlier today, Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly reported,

Nathan, an out lesbian, would be the second out lesbian federal judge with lifetime tenure in the country if confirmed, joining U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York. Also on that court, which is located in Manhattan, is U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken. Oetken was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate for the judgeship earlier this year and currently is the only out gay male judge serving in the federal judiciary.

One particularly hostile attempt to quash the Nathan nomination came from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), whose own judicial nomination failed in 1986. Sessions claimed, “Perhaps if she had more legal experience, she would have a better idea of the role of a judge,” and claimed, falsely, that Nathan would rely on foreign law to decide her cases, an absurd comment that can be directly tied to Tea Party rhetoric.

“This is another step toward an America whose leadership class more accurately reflects the country it serves,” Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute said. “For too long gays and lesbians have been excluded from key public service roles, but that’s beginning to change, and we must continue fighting for opportunities for qualified, talented people like Alison Nathan who also happen to be open and honest about themselves.”

“We commend the Senate for their important vote today, confirming Alison Nathan to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Ms. Nathan’s demonstrated intellect and dedication to public service is a model of achievement. She will join Judges Deborah Batts and Paul Oetken in the Southern District of New York as the only openly lesbian or gay federal judges. We look forward to the day when the makeup of the entire federal bench truly represents the diverse American public.”

Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade reported,

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said on the Senate floor there was “no question the Senate should confirm Ms. Nathan.”
“As her resume shows, she is an accomplished nominee with significant experience in private practice, academia and government service,” Leahy said. “Twenty-seven former Supreme Court clerks have written to the Judiciary Committee in support of Ms. Nathan’s qualifications, including clerks who worked for the conservative Justices.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who’s known for opposing pro-LGBT initiatives in Congress, also expressed concerns on the floor about Nathan’s legal experience and what he said was her belief that judges can look to foreign law in deciding cases.
“It’s very hard for me to believe that I should vote to confirm a judge who’s not committed to following our law, who believes they have a right to scrutinize the world, find some law in some other country, bring it home, and use that law to make it achieve a result in the case they wanted,” Sessions said.
LGBT advocates praised the Senate for confirming Nathan and sending the third openly gay person to the federal bench.
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