Democratic Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Tuesday nominated openly lesbian state judge Sabrina Sizue McKenna to the Hawaii Supreme Court, on the same day a state Senate committee approved a measure that would allow civil unions.
McKenna, 53, who was born in Tokya and formerly played basketball for the Univeristy of Hawaii, will be the first openly gay justice to serve on Hawaii’s highest court if the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirms her appointment.
“This appointment sets the course for the state and its legal direction for the next several years,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “I’m completely confident that Judge McKenna’s appointment will be something I’m proud of for the rest of my life.”
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, McKenna’s sexual orientation was not mentioned during the nomination ceremonies, but she suggested that she her experiences as a minority could favorably shape the court.
“I would like to believe that because of my background and my life experiences, I bring sensitivity to those who may not have been born into a life of privilege, a sensitivity to those whose life circumstances make it difficult for them to conform with all of society’s expectations,” she said. “I try to bring compassion to the court.”
The Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of a civil unions bill on Tuesday coincided with McKenna’s nomination. The measure now heads to the full Senate for debate. If passed by the Legislature, supporters believe Gov. Abercrombie will sign it into law (a similar proposal was vetoed by Republican former Gov. Lisa Lingle last year.