Openly gay Justice nominated to Mass. highest court

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**Update on Cipollini’s negative comments regarding Gov. Patrick’s former judge’s nominations**

April 6, 2011
By: Nicole Lashomb/Editor-in-Chief
BOSTON–Governor Deval Patrick’s nomination of openly gay Massachusetts Appeals Court Associate Justice Barbara A. Lenk has already received some criticism from sources that claim Patrick is playing favorites. Such remarks were promptly addressed by community leaders.Governor’s Councilor Charles Cipollini openly stated in a story via The Herald News that Gov. Patrick’s nominations were “catering to certain groups.” Openly criticizing Patrick’s former nominations to the court (Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, African American and Associate Justice Fernande Duffly, Asian) he told The Herald News that Patrick’s next choice would be that of an “illegal … to fill his quota.”

Such comments were promptly addressed by MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini, Esq. through an official statement on Cipollini’s remarks regarding Gov. Deval Patrick’s Supreme Judicial Court Appointments:

“All judges are people, and they all have a background that they bring to their service on the bench. Having admitted that he has not even reviewed Judge Barbara Lenk’s record, Cipollini’s suggestion that Gov. Deval Patrick’s nominees — the first African-American Chief Justice, the first Asian-American Associate Justice, and the first open lesbian – are unable to be impartial and lack ‘family values’ merely because of who they are is nonsensical and deeply offensive.

“By Councilor Cipollini’s logic, female judges should not rule on sex discrimination cases and African-American judges should not rule on race discrimination cases. This is absurd. The irony, of course, is that not a single openly gay judge participated in the 2003 SJC ruling granting marriage equality to same-sex couples.

“The only impartiality in question here is that of Councilor Cipollini. Gov. Patrick’s nominees to the SJC appropriately have reflected the Commonwealth that Court serves, and Cipollini is out of step with our Commonwealth’s principles valuing families, fair play and hard work.”
As an advocate for the LGBT community, Governor Deval Patrick is breaking through barriers again. On April 4, the Governor announced his nomination of openly gay Barbara A. Lenk, a Massachusetts Appeals Court Associate Justice, to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court (SJC).

If confirmed by the Governor’s Council, Lenk’s appointment would set a precedent for the state’s highest court. Having wed her same-sex partner after the court’s landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the commonwealth in 2004, Lenk would be the first openly gay person to sit on the SJC’s bench.

“I like the idea of firsts, as you know, and I’m proud of this one. But, first and foremost, this is a very well-prepared, highly qualified candidate,” said Governor Patrick during the press conference on Lenk’s nomination.

Governor Patrick has nominated justices and other government officials that reflect the commonwealth’s diversity and inclusion of its citizens. Roderick Ireland was named the first African-American Chief Justice of the SJC, and Fernande R.V. Duffly was the first Asian-American Justice to gain a seat.

At the nomination, Lenk said many of the commonwealth’s legislative decisions have affected her life as a citizen of Massachusetts, not only the Goodridge decision.

“That’s the awesome power of the law, it affects human lives,” she said.

On Lenk’s nomination, Suffredini applauded Gov. Patrick’s move to inclusion of women in positions of power.

“Judge Lenk’s appointment would shatter the glass ceiling in Massachusetts around the appointment of openly LGBT attorneys to the state’s highest court,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini, Esq . “The bench should reflect the community that it serves. It’s undeniable that the existence of openly LGBT attorneys and judges influences debate on the legal issues that impact our lives.”

Lenk holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Her law specialization focused on civil litigation and First Amendment matters. In 1993, she was appointed to the Superior Court and served there until she was appointed to the Appeals Court in 1995.

“Judge Lenk embodies the highest ethics, integrity, qualifications, and experience required of a Supreme Judicial Court justice,” Suffredini said.  “She is a well-respected member of the bar and we look forward to her receiving the support of the Governor’s Council.”

Justice Lenk’s nomination to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is historic, and we applaud Gov. Patrick for his continued commitment to creating a bench that truly reflects the diverse communities of this state, including the LGBT community.

Via e-mail, GLAD’s sent a statement to praise the nomination.

“Justice Lenk’s confirmation to the SJC would mark a tremendous milestone for the LGBT community in Massachusetts . But it should not overshadow the fact that she is eminently qualified to serve on our state’s highest court. Justice Lenk is a well-respected, meticulous and thoughtful judge who has heart. She understands firsthand how meaningful a decision of our highest court can be in the lives of our citizens. We are confident that Justice Lenk’s nomination will soon be approved by the Governor’s Council.”

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