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The Plain English Attorney

Recently, former Clinton Administration lawyer J. Paul Oetken became the first openly gay judge confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the federal bench. What was most remarkable about his nomination and confirmation is that it was unremarkable. No screaming crowds of protestors. No televised grilling by the Senate Judiciary Committee. No talking heads on radio and TV shows blasting or praising him. In fact, the vote to confirm him only had 13 Senators, all Republicans, voting against with 80 voting in favor.

And when the roll was called out displaying the confirmation vote, there was no outburst of cheers. No chorus of boos. No thunderous applause. Even more remarkable in its unremarkableness is that none of the thirteen senators voting against him mentioned his orientation. None. And very little commentary against listed in the record.

What is going on here?

Fortunately, what is going on is that there has been a lot of progress in the last few years. A lifetime judicial nomination that could have been the center of a sexual orientation firestorm just a few short years ago became a simple vote based on the judge’s qualifications. And after all, isn’t that what equality should be about? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

It applies to orientation just as well. And the dream comes a little more into focus.

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