Massachusetts taps lesbian for top court

BOSTON Mon Apr 4, 2011 4:20pm EDT

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Monday nominated Barbara Lenk, a lesbian, to fill an opening on the state's highest court.

If confirmed, Lenk would be the first openly gay Supreme Court justice in Massachusetts and one of only a handful at that level in the country.

Lenk, who married after Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, attended a press conference with her wife and their two daughters.

"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 of her nomination.

Lenk, 60, is a native of Queens, New York, the daughter of a book-binder and housekeeper.

"My story is the American story -- where anything is possible," Lenk said.

After graduating from Fordham University she received a PhD in political philosophy from Yale University and law degree from Harvard.

"I like the idea of firsts, and I'm proud of this one, but first and foremost this is a very well prepared and highly qualified candidate," said Patrick, a Democrat.

While practicing law at the Boston firm now known as Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels, Lenk focused on civil litigation with a specialty in First Amendment issues.

She was appointed as a Superior Court judge in 1993 and to the Appeals Court in 1995 by Governor William Weld.

All judicial nominations in Massachusetts must be approved by the bipartisan Governor's Council of eight state lawmakers.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Lauren Keiper; Editing by Jerry Norton and Greg McCune)

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