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Congratulations to Justice Beth Robinson
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/29/11
Last updated on: 12/04/11
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Beth Robinson.
On November 28, 2011, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin swore in Beth Robinson as an Associate Justice of Vermont's Supreme Court. Robinson becomes the first openly gay member of the Court before which she argued the seminal case Baker v. State (1999), which led to a ruling in which the Court directed the Vermont Legislature to either pass a same-sex marriage bill or create an "alternative legal status to marriage." The ruling led to the state's historic civil union law, which in 2009 was superseded by a law that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

Shumlin administered the oath of office to Robinson in a ceremony before a crowd of about 150 family, friends, and colleagues. He praised her intelligence, energy, and commitment to justice.

"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.

Among those people, she said, were the plaintiffs in the Baker case, in which Robinson argued that same-sex couples had the same rights as heterosexual married couples. The crowd included two of the plaintiffs--Holly Puterbaugh and Lois Farnham--as well as others who worked with Robinson in the struggle to pass the civil union bill and then the same-sex marriage bill.

Also among the crowd was Robinson's wife Kym Boyman. The couple entered into a civil union in 2001 and married in 2010. Robinson's parents and her brother also attended the ceremony.

Governor Shumlin was leader of the state Senate when both the civil union and same-sex marriage bills were passed. When he became governor this year, he named Robinson his legal counsel. In October, he nominated her for the vacancy created in August by the retirement of Justice Denise Johnson, the Court's first woman justice.

At the ceremony at the Supreme Court on November 28, Shumlin said he was honored to nominate the first openly gay justice to the Court.

He noted that when the Baker decision came down, then-Governor Howard Dean remarked 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."

As head of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, Robinson tirelessly lobbied members of the legislature to vote in favor of equal rights. She helped mobilize support for those who voted for civil unions and, then, for marriage equality.

With Robinson's appointment, there are now six openly gay state supreme court justices. The other five are Rives Kistler and Virginia Linder of Oregon; Barbara Lenk of Massachusetts; Sabrina McKenna of Hawaii; and Monica Marquez of Colorado.

Here are YouTube videos of Shumlin announcing the appointment of Robinson to the Supreme Court and her reaction to that announcement:

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