U.S. Senate confirms lesbian as newest judge in New York federal court

Alison Nathan

Alison Nathan

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed openly lesbian Alison Nathan as the newest U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

The vote was 48-44 in favor of Nathan’s nomination to the Court — among the 44 nay votes were five Democrats and all Republicans.

Alison Nathan (left), with her spouse Meg Sattethwaite and twin sons greeting President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

In an e-mail this afternoon following the Senate’s confirmation, White House Director of Specialty Media Shin Inouye said, “The President welcomes the confirmation of Alison Nathan. She will serve the American people well from the District Court bench.”

The Washington Blade reported that GOP Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who’s known for opposing pro-LGBT initiatives in Congress, both expressed concerns on the floor about Nathan’s legal experience.

“Ms. Nathan and Judge Hickey [Another nominee being voted upon for confirmation.] both have had limited experience in the courtroom,” Grassley said. “They have failed to meet even the minimum qualifications that the ABA uses in rating process.”

“It’s very hard for me to believe that I should vote to confirm a judge who’s not committed to following our law, who believes they have a right to scrutinize the world, find some law in some other country, bring it home, and use that law to make it achieve a result in the case they wanted,” Sessions said.

Nathan has previously served as a Special Assistant to President Obama and as Associate White House Counsel. At the time of her nomination in March, Nathan was serving in the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York as Special Counsel to the Solicitor General.

Alison Nathan

Prior to joining government service, Nathan spent a number of years as an academic, first as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Fordham University Law School from 2006 to 2008 and later as a Fritz Alexander Fellow at New York University School of Law from 2008 to 2009.

Nathan has also served as a law clerk for the Honorable John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court of the United States from 2001 to 2002 and as a law clerk to the Honorable Betty B. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from 2000 to 2001. Nathan received her J.D., magna cum laude, in 2000 from Cornell Law School, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell Law Review. She received her B.A. in 1994 from Cornell University.

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said, in a statement, that Nathan’s “demonstrated intellect and dedication to public service is a model of achievement.”

“She will join Judges Deborah Batts and Paul Oetken in the Southern District of New York as the only openly lesbian or gay federal judges. We look forward to the day when the makeup of the entire federal bench truly represents the diverse American public,” Solmonese said.

Nathan lives in New York with her partner, Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan,

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