The state senate of Hawaii has approved new Governor Neil Abercrombie’s first judicial appointment – to make Sabrina McKenna the state’s first openly gay supreme court judge.

Ms McKenna, 53, was a senior judge working in the state’s family court.

“This is the most important decision I have made in my career,” Mr Abercrombie said in a statement when he first nominated Ms McKenna.

“This appointment sets the course for the state and its legal direction for the next several years.  I am completely confident that Judge McKenna’s appointment will be something I’m proud of for the rest of my life.”

The vote by the senate, came ahead of its vote to legalise gay civil unions in the state.