First openly gay man confirmed as U.S. federal judge

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Paul Oetken, a former Clinton administration lawyer and out gay man, as a federal judge. Via The New York Times:

Mr. Oetken won Senate confirmation by a vote of 80 to 13. He will take his seat as a federal judge in Manhattan after President Obama signs his commission, which may be as soon as this week, according to the office of Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

“When there are so many qualified gay and lesbian people and none of them get on the bench, you scratch your head and wonder why,” said Mr. Schumer, who recommended the appointment last year to Mr. Obama. “But the old barriers that existed in society are crumbling. That’s what this will say.”

Well, I don’t know if I exactly “scratch my head and wonder why,” Senator Schumer. But, fuck yeah, let the old barriers crumble! And, as Dana Milbank points out, what’s so heartening is that this confirmation, which “would at one time have been a flashpoint in the culture wars,” went down in a very unremarkable way. A majority of Senate Republicans–28 of them!–even voted to approve.

Oetken joins Judge Deborah Batts, who became the first out lesbian judge when she was confirmed in 1994. As the Bilerico Project notes, this is “another important milestone in the acceptance of gay people in our national politics.” Here’s to many more to come.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation