FILE - In this April 30, 2015, file photo, people gather in front of the Puerto Ricos Capitol building to protest against Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla's budget proposal for the next fiscal year in San Juan. Authorities announced on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, that Puerto Rico's worsening economic crisis has forced it to revise a fiscal reform plan to reflect a jump in the island's projected deficit and a steep drop in anticipated revenue. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo, File)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Puerto Rican judge Maite Oronoz Rodriguez has been nominated to head the U.S. territory's Supreme Court as the first openly gay chief justice in the United States.
Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced the nomination on Friday afternoon calling it a "new time" for Puerto Rico's judicial branch. At 39, Oronoz Rodriguez is also the youngest member of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.
"It's time to strengthen justice to face the challenges" and "to pass the administration of justice to present generations who will live the results," the governor said in making the nomination.
The 39-year-old was first appointed to the high court in June 2014. She previously served as the commonwealth's deputy solicitor general and chief legal counselor for the city of San Juan.
In accepting the nomination, Oronoz Rodriguez said it was time for her to "step down from the podium and receive with open arms a citizenry that demands human justice."
Her nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.
Oronoz Rodriguez is in a public relationship with Gina Mendez, the chief of staff for Senate President Eduardo Bhatia.
Gay rights activists hailed the nomination.
"With this nomination, Maite Oronoz Rodriguez makes judicial history; not just in Puerto Rico, but for the entire country," said Lambda Legal attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. He called the nomination "a significant step towards a judiciary that reflects the growing diversity of the United States."
Lambda is a nonprofit group that aims to achieve full civil rights for gay people.
The religious group Puerto Rico Pro Family criticized her lack of experience. Spokesman Cesar Vazquez Muniz attributed her nomination to her political connections and sexual orientation.