Vermont on Monday swore in its first openly-lesbian Supreme Court justice. Beth Robinson, who is 46, has worked to secure gay and lesbian rights for over a decade, winning the landmark 1999 case that made Vermont the first state to offer civil unions. Robinson also worked as the co-founder of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force since 1995, helping to secure same-sex marriage equality in 2009, overriding the Governor’s veto.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin appointed Robinson in October. She is technically an interim justice awaiting Senate confirmation, which is not seen as a challenge. Robinson, a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago Law School, is now one of only six openly-gay state supreme court justices.
Beth Robinson married her long-time partner Kim Boyman in 2010, having lived as a couple under a Vermont civil union since 2001.
The Burlington Free Press adds:
Robinson, 46, of Ferrisburgh became the state’s first openly gay Supreme Court justice in a ceremony before a crowd of about 150 family, friends and former and future colleagues. She was heralded for her intelligence, energy and fairness.
“My pledge is to remember the people,” Robinson told the crowd, noting that she has a love for legal interpretation but came to understand that legal cases are primarily about people.
As head of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force she exhibited a deliberate patience in building her case, helping those who supported the cause win election to the Legislature and winning over reluctant lawmakers. Though the 2009 same-sex marriage bill won by only a single vote as the Legislature overrode the veto of then-Gov. Jim Douglas, the fight under Robinson’s leadership never turned angry.
It was an honor, Shumlin said, to nominate the first openly gay justice to the court. Shumlin noted that when the Baker decision came down, then-Gov. Howard Dean acknowledged that the decision made him uncomfortable.
“It was a different world just 12 years ago,” Shumlin said. “We’ve come a long way, most of it because of Beth’s work.”
Robinson in 2010 was an honorary degree recipient at Vermont’s Middlebury College commencement ceremony. The college noted Robinson “has won numerous awards, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont’s David Curtis Civil Liberties Award, which she received in 2009. The Burlington Free Press named Robinson the 2009 Vermonter of the Year.”
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