The White House on Thursday nominated two California lawyers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, including a San Francisco law firm partner who has been involved in the legal challenges to the state's now-defunct gay marriage ban.

President Barack Obama nominated Michelle Friedland, a partner in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson, to the nation's largest appeals court, which shapes federal law in California and eight other western states. The president also nominated another Munger, Tolles & Olson partner, Los Angeles-based lawyer John Owens, to a second 9th Circuit vacancy.

The law firm has been a feeding ground for Obama's 9th Circuit picks. Judge Paul Watford, who joined the 9th Circuit several years ago, also came from there.

Friedland, a 41-year-old Berkeley native who now lives in Silicon Valley, has been with the law firm since 2004, handling issues ranging from antitrust to free speech rights.

The Senate must confirm the nominations, and Friedland's work on behalf of same-sex couples and gay rights could draw some questioning from Republican senators.

The Stanford University law school graduate has been involved in defending gay rights, including helping in the legal challenge to Proposition 8, according to her law firm portfolio. In addition, Friedland has helped defend a state law that bars mental health professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors -- a case now pending in the 9th Circuit.

Friedland was a law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Owens is a former federal prosecutor who has worked in the U.S. Justice Department and served as chief of the criminal division in the San Diego U.S. attorney's office. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Owens would fill one of the most prolonged vacancies in 9th Circuit history. Judge Stephen Trott stepped down in 2004, but there has been unresolved political feuding over whether his seat should be considered a California judgeship or an Idaho judgeship.

Friedland would replace 9th Circuit Judge Raymond Fisher.

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