The confirmation of a graduate of Regis High School and the University of Iowa to a federal judgeship is being hailed as a historic moment for gay rights.
J. Paul Oetken, formerly of Cedar Rapids, became the first openly gay man confirmed to the federal bench when the U.S. Senate voted 80-13 July 18 to confirm President Barack Obama’s nomination of the cable television industry lawyer to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It is considered one of the most prestigious trial courts in the nation as it hears major cases ranging from financial fraud to terrorism.
As significant as the vote was the fact that Oetken’s sexual orientation did not appear to be an issue, according to Troy Price, interim executive director of One Iowa, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender advocacy group.
“We’re so excited that (Oetken’s) sexual orientation did not seem to play a role in that confirmation process,” Price said. In regard to nominees for any post, “You have to look not at any particular demographic, but at their qualifications.”
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