September 17, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Senate confirms lesbian attorney for judgeship
Elanine Kaplan, Senate Judiciary Committee, United States Senate, United States Court of Federal Claims, Office of Personnel Management, Gay News, Washington Blade

Elaine Kaplan currently serves as acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

The Senate voted 64 to 35 on Tuesday to confirm President Obama’s nomination of lesbian attorney Elaine D. Kaplan for a 15-year term on the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Kaplan currently serves as acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. She will become the second out gay person to serve on the specialized court, which hears cases brought by citizens against the federal government to recover monetary damages.

Eleven Republicans joined 51 Democrats and two independent senators to vote for Kaplan’s confirmation. Thirty-five Republicans voted against her confirmation. One Democrat, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, did not vote, becoming the only Democratic senator that did not vote to confirm Kaplan for the post.

Among the Republicans voting for Kaplan’s confirmation were Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“Fair-minded people everywhere should be proud to have Elaine Kaplan as the latest trailblazer to take a place on the federal bench following a bipartisan confirmation,” said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Fred Sainz.

“LGBT people are increasingly visible in all areas of public service, but as a community that so deeply cherishes the virtues of fairness and equality, there is a unique power in seeing role models like Kaplan preside over a court of law,” Sainz said.

Kaplan’s confirmation follows President Bill Clinton’s appointment of lesbian attorney Emily C. Hewitt as a Federal Claims Court judge in 1998. Obama appointed Hewitt as that court’s chief judge in 2009. Her 15-year term on the court ends in October.

Kaplan has served as general counsel for OPM since 2009 under gay former OPM Director John Berry, who was one of Obama’s first high-level gay appointees. The president named Kaplan acting director of OPM when Berry left the post in April. In August, Obama nominated Berry to become U.S. ambassador to Australia and the Senate confirmed him for that position in August.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Kaplan worked from 2004 to 2009 as Senior Deputy General Counsel for the National Treasury Employees Union and from 2003 to 2004 as an attorney for the D.C. law firm Bernabei and Katz.

Kaplan served from 1998 to 2003 as director of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for a fixed five-year-term after being nominated for the post by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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