Gay activists are reacting favorably to President Obama's pick of federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice David Souter.

Sotomayor's storied hard-working background and legal credentials have definite bipartisan appeal – she's been named to courts by Republican President George H. W. Bush and Democratic President Bill Clinton – but her nomination is certain to draw fire from conservatives who consider her too liberal.

If confirmed, she will become the first Hispanic justice in the court's history and only the third female.

Gay activists had hoped to add one of their own to the bench and lobbied Obama on behalf of two openly lesbian Stanford Law professors: Pam Karlan and Kathleen Sullivan.

“From everything I know, Judge Sotomayor is an outstanding choice – fair and aware, open and judicious,” Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry, told gay weekly Bay Windows. “I believe she has demonstrated commitment to principles of equal protection and inclusion that defines a good nominee to the Supreme Court. In choosing Judge Sotomayor, the first Latino candidate for the Supreme Court, President Obama has made a strong and appealing nomination that should and will receive the support of those committed to equality for lesbians and gay men.”

In a statement issued by the National LGBT Bar Association, the group said Sotomayor “not only meets, but exceeds” the organization's criteria for a nominee.

Conservatives, on the other hand, have already begun calling for her defeat.

Sotomayor's 1997 Clinton nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals was blocked for more than a year by Republicans who called her too liberal and an “activist.”

“President Obama could have chosen a consensus candidate,” a top Republican Senate leadership aide told ABC News, “but he did not.”

Despite recent legal victories in state courts and Legislatures, gay activists remain reticent to approach the Supreme Court, which continues to lean right on social issues. But a gay rights case likely to reach the Supreme Court is currently making its way through the federal court system. The lawsuit brought by gay and lesbian couples married in Massachusetts seeks to strike down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that forbids federal agencies from recognizing legal marriages. Lawyers working on the case have said they believe it will reach the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor, 54, was raised in a South Bronx housing project by parents who immigrated from Puerto Rico. She worked against the odds to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979.