WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, "shocked" no openly gay men served as federal judges, says gay candidate J. Paul Oetken possesses legal excellence and moderate views.
Schumer, D-N.Y., who recommended Oetken to U.S. President Barack Obama to fill a vacated U.S. district judge post, presides over a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Oetken's nomination Wednesday.
If confirmed, Oetken -- a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun who also worked in the U.S. Justice Department and in the White House counsel's office during the Clinton administration -- could become the first openly gay male to sit on the federal bench.
Schumer said in recommending Oetken, 45, to Obama he was looking for a candidate who fit the three criteria -- legal excellence, moderation of views and diversity.
Oetken, a graduate of the University of Iowa and Yale Law School, "fit the bill," The New York Times quoted Schumer as saying.
"And I was shocked to learn there were no openly gay male judges on the entire federal bench," Schumer said.
U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts, the first openly lesbian judge, serves in the same southern New York judicial district.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, nominated to the northern California district bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle last year as being gay. He had no comment on the report.
Walker, unanimously confirmed by the Senate that November, ruled last August a California proposition approved by state voters to ban same-sex marriage unconstitutionally discriminated against gays and lesbians. An appeals court ordered the judgment stayed pending appeal.
Oetken is one of two openly gay men whose nominations are pending to the federal courts. The other is Edward DuMont, a lawyer nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.
DuMont was originally nominated last April. When the Senate didn't act on the nomination in the last Congress, Obama resubmitted DuMont's nomination Jan. 5, the Washington Blade reported. DuMont, a lawyer at the giant WilmerHale law firm, was rated "unanimously well qualified" by an American Bar Association panel.
No hearing has been scheduled on his nomination.
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