Maryland Labor Attorney Becomes First Openly Gay Judge on 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals


A Maryland labor attorney is set to become the first openly gay judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after winning final confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Nicole Berner, who worked as the general counsel for the Service Employees International Union, was nominated by President Joe Biden in November. She was confirmed Tuesday by a 50-47 vote in the Senate.

Berner, 59, previously worked as a staff attorney for Planned Parenthood from 2004 to 2006.

The 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, decides appeals from federal courts in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats from Maryland who had recommended Berner to Biden, praised her for championing civil rights and workers rights throughout her career.

"Her confirmation to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals not only ensures that Marylanders will have a new judge with an unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law and securing equal justice for all, but also one who is breaking barriers to serve as the Court's first openly LGBTQ member," Van Hollen said in a statement.

Some Republicans had criticized her nomination, citing a 2017 union brief she signed against a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and for briefs she filed challenging other conservative court rulings.

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