Senate Confirms First Out LGBTQ Woman to US Court of Appeals

Beth Robinson has been confirmed as the first LGBTQ woman to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Screenshot/C-Span

The US Senate has confirmed Beth Robinson as the first out lesbian to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Senators voted 51-45 in favor of Robinson’s confirmation — and although Republicans largely voted against Robinson, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine confirmed the LGBTQ judge to the seat. This history-making appointment comes after President Joe Biden tapped Robinson in August for the sixth round of judicial nominees.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Robinson told senators that she would be honored to take the role.

“Deep gratitude to President Biden for the confidence he’s placed in me for the nomination,” Robinson told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September. “Joined by my life partner of nearly 29 years, my wife Kim — without her decades of support, I most assuredly would not be here today…for the past decade as a justice in the Vermont Supreme Court, I have done my best to interpret and apply the law evenhandedly with the precedents in the Constitution that binds me.”

Since 2011, Robinson has served as the associate judge for the Vermont Supreme Court, where she was installed as the first openly LGBTQ woman in the position. Before that role, Robinson was a counsel to former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and worked as a lawyer representing an LGBTQ couple in the Baker v. Vermont case, leading to marriage equality in the state. In 1986, Robinson graduated with her bachelor’s from Dartmouth College, and three years later, she earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ litigation group, praised the Senate’s historical confirmation of the judge.

“Judge Robinson’s extraordinary professional expertise makes her well qualified for this important position and her confirmation as the first openly lesbian judge to a federal appeals court seat is cause for celebration for our community,” Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director for Lambda Legal, Sharon McGowan, said in a written statement. “LGBT representation in the courts is critical because judges that more accurately reflect the diversity of our nation give legitimacy to these important institutions, which have such a profound impact on the lives of so many. Judge Robinson’s lived and professional experiences will be assets in her work to fulfill our nation’s promise of justice.”

Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders echoed support for Robinson.

“I want to congratulate Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson for her momentous confirmation today to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals,” Sanders wrote in a tweet. “Thank you for your continued service. I know you will make Vermont proud and will be an excellent addition to the federal bench.”

GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), an LGBTQ legal rights group, applauded Robinson’s confirmation as another “pivotal moment” in the representation of LGBTQ public officials,

“Justice Robinson’s deep commitments to the rule of law and to equal justice under law – bar none – will make her a remarkable asset to our federal judiciary and our society,” GLAD Civil Rights Project Director, Mary L. Bonauto, said in a written statement. “As both a litigator and a Vermont Supreme Court Justice, she knows that law is entwined with people’s lives and has the integrity and humility to see both.”

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