HRC Blog

Qualified LGBT Judicial Nominee Confirmed Despite Fringe Opposition and Obstructionism

In a 91-6 vote, the U.S. Senate has confirmed Michael Fitzgerald to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  Mr. Fitzgerald, President Obama’s third openly LGBT judicial nominee to be confirmed to an Article III court, was confirmed despite being framed as an “activist” by ultraconservative fringe groups – the Judicial Action Group and the Pray in the Name of Jesus Project – solely for his membership in LGBT groups and his work on the “No on Proposition 8” campaign in California.

Mr. Fitzgerald received a unanimous voice vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee in November.  Prior to that, he was rated unanimously well-qualified by the nonpartisan American Bar Association, the highest rating possible for a judicial nominee. However, it took months for the Senate to consider his nomination because Republican leadership has been refusing to give President Obama’s judicial nominees a timely up or down vote.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who recommended Mr. Fitzgerald’s nomination to President Obama, reacted to the vote by saying, “The federal bench in California will gain an extremely talented new judge as a result of today’s historic vote to confirm Michael Fitzgerald. His sharp intellect and broad legal experience will make him a tremendous asset to the people of the Central District. While I am pleased by today’s overwhelming vote, it is shameful that he had to wait so long for a vote and I hope that Republicans will stop blocking the confirmation of highly qualified nominees.”

Mr. Fitzgerald is the first openly gay man to be confirmed by the Senate for a seat on an Article III court outside the Southern District of New York.  Prior to Mr. Fitzgerald’s confirmation, Judge Paul Oetken and Judge Alison Nathan were nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge Deborah Batts, who has announced plans to take senior status in April, was the first and only openly-LGBT judge to be confirmed by the Senate prior to the election of President Obama. She currently serves alongside Judges Oetken and Nathan in the Southern District of New York.

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