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Nominee would be first openly gay judge on Massachusetts high court

By Leigh Remizowski, CNN
  • Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick nominates State Appeals Court Judge Barbara Lenk
  • Governor's office says Lenk is in a same-sex marriage
  • "Lenk possesses a first-rate legal mind," says Appeals Court chief justice
  • Nomination must be approved by the Governor's Council

(CNN) -- If confirmed, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's nominee for the state Supreme Judicial Court would be the first openly gay justice to serve on the state's highest court.

Patrick, a Democrat, nominated State Appeals Court Judge Barbara Lenk to fill the seat held by Judge Judith Cowin, who announced her retirement earlier this year.

"I am honored to nominate Justice Lenk to the Supreme Judicial Court," Patrick said in a statement. "She is a brilliant and thoughtful jurist, with a deep sense of justice."

Lenk would be the only Supreme Judicial Court judge in a same-sex marriage, according to a governor's office spokeswoman.

"I will bring with me the sympathy and understanding of one who has experienced a full life from both inside and outside the mainstream," Lenk said at a news conference announcing her nomination.

Originally from Queens, New York, Lenk is a graduate of Harvard Law School. She has served on the state Superior Court and the state Appeals Court, where she is a senior associate justice.

"Justice Lenk possesses a first-rate legal mind and is a seasoned jurist who has earned the respect of her colleagues both on the Appeals Court and throughout the legal community," said Appeals Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza in a statement. "She has all the personal and professional attributes that will make her an outstanding justice on our state's highest court."

Now, Patrick's nomination must be approved by the Governor's Council, the elected body that votes on gubernatorial appointments. No date has been set yet for Lenk's hearing.