First Openly Gay District Court Judge Confirmed
In the celebratory storm of marriage equality in New York, it was hard to hear the pebble in the larger pond of equality that took place on the Senate Floor on Monday, July 18. It was so quiet, in comparison, that you might have missed the other good news for New York: the United States Senate’s confirmation of the first openly gay district court judge, Paul Oetken. The final Senate tally: 80-13.
In our worst moments of cynicism, like so many of you, we lose heart in the struggle for coast-to-coast LGBT equality.
Let’s face it, we have had some setbacks in the state-by-state struggle for marriage equality lately. But what took place Monday with relatively little fanfare (described by Dana Milbanks as “utterly unremarkable”) was remarkable just for that: its normalcy. There was not, as there may have been only a few short years ago, any thunderous, prejudiced roaring about his sexuality. Maybe that was because of Oetken’s impeccable credentials, maybe that was because our civil rights movement has got some momentum, or maybe it was both.
So, what does Oetken’s confirmation mean for our judiciary? Well, at the very least, it means we are one more step towards having a judiciary that looks more like our constituency. And, for the optimists among us, it means that this once-closed-door has opened.
And what does it mean for the rest of us? Maybe it means that we can hope our sexual orientations will be just a little less significant to the ordinary Joe. Maybe it means that when we go to work for our sundry employers and consider whether we ought to share our delight over our respective engagements or even our nuptials, we can choose to share. Because that’s normal.
Here’s hoping that the rest of our great nation is closing in on the heels of New York.
As always, we welcome your questions and encourage you to ask them before your Big Day.
Heather & Emily
Heather McCabe and Emily Russell are family law practitioners who regularly serve the LGBT community in all kinds of legal affairs – from adoptions to dissolutions/divorces. McCabe has taught family law and legal writing and has been on the faculty at Georgetown Law, American University, and University of Baltimore. Russell worked as a lobbyist before coming to the law. Whether through document drafting, mediation, collaborative law, or litigation, McCabe and Russell are committed to the creation and security of the unique families they serve.