Despite opposition from conservative groups over her support for gay rights, the Senate on Monday confirmed San Francisco lawyer Michelle Friedland to a judgeship on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

With Democrats blocking Republican efforts to filibuster the nomination, the Senate backed Friedland by a 51-40 vote. The 41-year-old Silicon Valley resident will now join the nation's largest federal appeals court, which for the first time in memory has 29 full-time judges and no vacancies.

Friedland has been a partner in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson, a law firm that has produced three of the Obama administration's seven 9th Circuit judge appointments. The White House nominated Friedland to the court last August.

Some of Friedland's work with the law firm generated conservative opposition, particularly her help in the legal challenge to California's now-defunct gay marriage ban and in defending a state law barring mental health professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors. The 9th Circuit upheld the gay conversion therapy ban last year.

The conservative Committee for Justice urged the Senate to vote against Friedland, calling her record in the gay rights cases "disturbing" and "intolerant."

Friedland, a Stanford University law school graduate, was a clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called Friedland an "excellent addition to the 9th Circuit."


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Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236, or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.