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Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie nominated Sabrina Shizue McKenna to the Hawaii Supreme Court, where she would be the first openly gay judge, on the same day a senate committee advanced the civil unions measure.
According to the Star-Advertiser, McKenna, 53, is a longtime state judge and former University of Hawaii women's basketball player. She was born in Tokyo and raised by a single mother.
Gov. Abercrombie, a Democrat, called the appointment "the most important decision" in his career, reported the Star-Advertiser.
McKenna said that being the first openly gay member of the court could give "hope to people who feel that they cannot succeed" for reasons including sexual orientation.
Her appointment is subject to confirmation in the Hawaii senate judiciary committee.
Also on Tuesday, the senate judiciary committee approved a civil unions measure, which now goes to the full senate for consideration. The Democratic-controlled legislature wants to send the bill to Gov. Abercrombie for approval this year. Last year, former governor Linda Lingle, a Republican, vetoed the measure.