Lenk Faces Tough Questions From Social Conservatives

By Sarah Birnbaum

Apr. 28, 2011

Social conservatives in Massachusetts are putting up a fight against the nomination of Barbara Lenk to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court nominee Barbara Lenk.

Lenk, who is gay, went before the Governor’s Council for a lengthy confirmation hearing Wednesday. Much of the hearing was given over to criticism from social conservatives and questions about the role of her sexual orientation in her judicial practices.  

Two councilors criticized Lenk for failing to disclose to fellow justices on the Appeals Court that her spouse was a lawyer who would occasionally argue cases before them. Lenk responded that she recused herself in any cases involving her wife, and avoided the topic with fellow judges.
“I can see how problematic it would have been if I had said, ‘Oh, that’s my spouse arguing before you today,’ or ‘Did you see my spouse today,’ or ‘How did she do today’…that, I think, is a problem. And so I buttoned it,” Lenk said.
A long procession of colleagues testified in Lenk’s favor, but a number of social conservatives testified against her. One quoted scripture, another called her a radical gay activist and a third said her nomination was more of a political statement than anything else.
But several of the eight council members, including Councilor Terry Kennedy of Lynnfield, rejected the testimony as unfounded, and in some cases, bigoted.
“I believe that Jude Lenk’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with her nomination. Any judgment I make of her is going to be based upon her abilities as a judge. Period,” Kennedy said.
Lenk declined to answer questions from Councilor Charles Cipollini on her stance on assisted suicide, gay marriage or whether schools should be allowed to teach children about homosexuality, saying she would not discuss her personal views in public.
The Council could vote on Lenk’s nomination as early as next week.

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