WASHINGTON — A Senate committee approved unanimously by voice vote on Thursday a judicial nominee who could become the fourth openly gay person to sit on the federal bench.
Michael Walter Fitzgerald, whom President Obama nominated in July, was approved the Senate Judiciary Committee en banc as part of a group of nominees.
Fitzgerald is the fourth out federal judicial nominee chosen by the White House. Upon confirmation, he would take a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and would be the first openly gay federal judge in that state.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, commended the panel for moving forward with nomination.
“Moving Michael Fitzgerald’s nomination to the Senate floor is a positive step toward confirming a dedicated legal talent,” Cole-Schwartz said. “We urge the full Senate to confirm him and help make the bench more representative of the diversity of the American public.”
When the full Senate will take up the Fitzgerald nomination remains in question. The Senate is currently is currently facing a backlog of judicial nominees on the Senate floor who haven’t yet received votes.
Erica Chabot, a Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson, said 22 nominations were already pending on the floor before the committee approved Fitzgerald and other nominees on Thursday.
“This nomination will join those and the others reported today on the floor,” Chabot said. “Sen. Leahy has been very clear about his concerns with how long nominations are pending on the floor after being reported by the committee.”
The Fitzgerald nomination was recommended to Obama by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who also praised the committee for advancing the Fitzgerald nomination and called for swift confirmation on the Senate floor.