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Texas Bar Members Say Steven Kirkland Should Be 1st Gay Supreme Court Justice

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Members of the Texas Bar Association want to see Houston’s Steven Kirkland become the state’s first openly gay Supreme Court justice.

According to a recent poll of bar members, the state’s lawyers favor Kirkland over Republican incumbent Jimmy Blacklock by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent in the race for the court’s Place 2 seat.

Judge Kirkland, who currently presides over Texas’ 334th Civil Court in Harris County, received 2,500 votes in the poll, to Blacklock’s 1,821.

Blacklock, who previously served as general counsel to Republican Governor Greg Abbott, was appointed to the Supreme Court by Abbott earlier this year. Among other things, Blacklock once vigorously defended Texas’ same-sex marriage ban in court— opposing the right of gay couples to even obtain divorces in the state. “All same-sex marriages are void and unenforceable,” Blacklock argued before the Texas Supreme Court in 2013.

Kirkland is among three Democratic candidates for Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals who came out on top in the Bar Association poll, the Texas Lawyer notes. Republicans have held all seats on both courts for more than 20 years.

In the race for the Place 4 seat on the Texas Supreme Court, Bar Association members backed Houston Democrat R.K. Sandill, who presides over Harris County’s 127th Civil District Court. Sandill is challenging Republican incumbent John Devine, who in 2016 Devine infamously issued an opinion saying that despite Obergefell, Texas can deny benefits to same-sex couples to “encourage procreation.” Sandill would be the first Asian-American elected to the Texas Supreme Court.

—John Wright

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