Yesterday, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin appointed gay rights lawyer and marriage equality advocate Beth Robinson to the Vermont Supreme Court. That brings to four the number of open lesbians appointed to state supreme courts in the last twelve months. The other three are, in chronological order, Monica Marquez, appointed December 2010 to the Colorado Supreme Court; Sabrina McKenna, appointed February 20011 to the Hawaii Supreme Court; and Barbara Lenk, appointed May 2011 to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Before December 2010, there was only one openly lesbian state supreme court judge, Virginia Linder, appointed in 2007 to the Oregon Supreme Court.
State courts are hugely influential in determining family law disputes, including those that involve same-sex couples and LGBT parents. Four of these five judges are serving in states that have marriage (Vermont and Massachusetts) or comprehensive recognition (Oregon-domestic partnership and Hawaii-civil union) for same-sex couples. Issues will arise in those states not only for same-sex couples who marry but for those who don't.
Beth Robinson, who has been deeply involved in marriage equality efforts for most of the last two decades, knows my critique of making marriage the dividing line between relationships that count under the law and those that don't. She has been focused on the equality aspect of access to marriage. I hope in her new position, having achieved the equality she fought hard to obtain, she will focus on doing justice for all LGBT parents and their children in Vermont, whether the couples marry or don't.
But that's all in the future. For today, a big congratulations to Beth! And props to the governor who selected her.