Openly-Gay Judge Headed to New York District Court

Lawmakers Overwhelmingly Approve J. Paul Oetken for New York District Court

Marking it one for the history books, the United States Senate has confirmed the nation's first openly gay federal judge.

Senators voted Monday 80 to 13 in favor of confirming J. Paul Oetken, 45, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York. The confirmation comes just days before New York York officially enacts the Marriage Equality Act allowing same-sex marriages.

Thirteen senators, all Republicans, voted against Oetken's confirmation, while seven abstained from the vote.

The state's Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both voted in favor of his confirmation. Before the vote, Sen. Schumer made remarks on the Senate floor.

"As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge, [Oetken] will be a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades," Schumer said.

The New York senator was the one who recommended Oetken's appointment to President Barack Obama last year.

"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," Schumer later told the New York Times. "But the old barriers that existed in society are crumbling. That's what this will say."

What do Christians have to say about this particular "barrier" crumbling?

An attorney using the pen name "Frank J. Bleckwenn" writes on conservative Christian website WorldNetDaily that Oetken's confirmation might "subject New York by force of judicial fiat to the homosexual agenda."

The article cites former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, a federal district court judge in California, who struck down in August 2010 Proposition 8, a measure prohibiting same-sex marriages.

Walker ruled that such unions are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, forcing the state to recognize married homosexuals. Walker, 67, revealed after announcing his retirement in February of this year that he himself is gay and had been in a homosexual relationship for at least a decade.

"Bleckwenn" asserts that there are "plenty" of reasons to believe that Oetken might be "another Vaughn Walker."

Oetken, a corporate attorney from Iowa who also worked with former President Bill Clinton's administration, has advocated for gay-interest groups.

He is not the first openly homosexual to be placed on the federal bench. In 1994, the Senate confirmed U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts, an open lesbian.

President Barack Obama, who officially submitted Oetken's nomination in January, still needs to sign off on his commission.

Appointments as a federal judge are for a lifetime, or until the judge retires.

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