Hawaii Senate Confirms Out Lesbian as Supreme Court Justice
February 16, 2011 by Tony Wagner, Western Regional Field Director
Today was an amazing day for equality in the Aloha State. Not only did the civil unions legislation pass the legislature and head to Gov. Abercrombie for his signature, but openly gay judge Sabrina Shizue McKenna was confirmed as an Associate Justice to the state’s highest court.
She becomes the first openly gay member of the Hawaii Supreme Court and the second out lesbian supreme court justice in the U.S. The appointment to the position spans 10 years and will give McKenna the opportunity to make her mark on the bench. Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the appointment the most important decision in his career, and said the “appointment sets the course for the state and its legal direction for the next several years. I'm completely confident that Judge McKenna's appointment will be something I'm proud of for the rest of my life."
Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee, gave impassioned remarks on the floor of the Senate and his colleagues confirmed McKenna unanimously, including the sole Republican in the chamber, Sam Slom, who also spoke well of the nominee. I was honored to be in the chamber for both the civil unions vote and Judge McKenna’s confirmation, and to share such a momentous day with my friends and colleagues here in Hawaii. It’s been a long time on this road to equality, but we’re finally making substantial gains in the state where the marriage battle began nearly two decades ago.
Judge Sabrina McKenna, 53, the senior judge of Oahu's Family Court at the Kapolei courthouse, was a state judge in circuit and district courts for 17 years. She is partnered to Denise Yamashiro and has three children between the ages of 8-14. McKenna, born and raised in Japan, attended the University of Hawaii-Manoa for undergraduate studies and law school.