After Two Anti-Gay Groups Oppose Lesbian Judge, Senate GOP Suddenly Decides To Oppose Her

Judge Alison Nathan with her family and President Obama

Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Judge Alison Nathan to a federal judgeship in New York. Shockingly, Nathan is only the third openly gay attorney confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench, and President Obama is only the second president to place an out judge on the bench.

The lion’s share of Nathan’s confirmation process went without serious controversy. Nathan’s nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee by a lopsided 14-4 vote, and, even in this hyperobstructionist Senate, Republicans agreed not to filibuster Nathan’s nomination and allow her to go straight to a confirmation vote. By the week of the vote, Nathan appeared poised to be confirmed in a walk.

Then, the day of her confirmation vote, the Senate GOP suddenly decided that Alison Nathan was a very dangerous woman. She was confirmed — but on an entirely party line vote. As Julie Bolcer reports, this decision came immediately after two anti-gay groups decided to oppose the nomination:

Schumer said he received a “friendly call” from one of his Republican colleagues about 90 minutes before the vote on October 14 to tell him that their conference planned to oppose the nominee uniformly. The senators had received an alert about the nominee from the conservative Heritage Action for America, which scores lawmakers on their votes, and a letter from the Concerned Women for America that took direct aim at Nathan’s sexual orientation.

“Nathan has a long history as political activism with Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) which calls into question her impartiality and judicial temperament,” said the letter, which cited her work as a member of the LGBT policy committee for the Obama campaign in 2008, and her pro-bono representation for groups including the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

So let’s be clear what happened here. Alison Nathan is a brilliant lawyer and former Supreme Court clerk. Half the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee saw no problem with making her a judge. No one in the Republican Caucus objected to giving her an up or down vote on the Senate floor. And then two anti-gay organizations threw tantrum, and the Senate GOP turned on a dime to oppose her.