Tuesday, April 5, 2011
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday nominated a lesbian who is married to her partner to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
The nominee, Barbara A. Lenk, is the longest-serving justice on the state’s Court of Appeals. If confirmed, she would be the first openly gay member of the state’s highest court, which was the first in the nation to rule same-sex marriage legal in 2003.
Mr. Patrick, a Democrat who recently appointed the court’s first Asian-American justice and black chief justice, said it was “a nice coincidence” that Justice Lenk was another history-making choice.
“I like the idea of firsts, as you know,” he said, “and I’m proud of this one. But first and foremost, this is a very well-prepared, highly qualified candidate.”
Justice Lenk, 60, specialized in First Amendment cases as a lawyer in private practice before Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican, made her a Superior Court judge in 1993. Mr. Weld also put her on the Court of Appeals.
At a news conference, Justice Lenk played down the role that the Supreme Judicial Court had played in her personal life by enabling her to marry her longtime partner.
“Certainly I understand and support its basic premise that our Constitution stands for equality for all people,” she said of the court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. “But it’s not the only decision that has had an impact on my life as a citizen.”
Justice Lenk would fill the seat held by Justice Judith A. Cowin, who announced in January that she planned to retire this month. Mr. Patrick has already appointed three other justices to the seven-member court.
In recent months, openly gay judges have also been named to the Hawaii and Colorado Supreme Courts.