Senate Unanimously Confirms First Openly Gay Federal Appeals Judge

The Senate unanimously confirmed Todd Hughes, the United States’ first openly gay federal appeals judge, in a 98-0 vote on Tuesday. 

Hughes was nominated by President Obama to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has national jurisdiction over cases that include international trade, government contracts, patents, federal personnel, veterans' benefits, and public safety officers’ benefits claims.

According to LifeSiteNews, Hughes, 46, has served as Deputy Director in the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice. He is a former member of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Attorneys of Washington and the National LGBT Bar Association.

Currently, at the District Court level, there are seven openly gay judges nationwide, six of whom were appointed by Obama.

Also in 2013, the Obama administration appointed four openly gay ambassadors, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Division at the Department of Justice, and a federal claims court judge.

According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which is devoted to electing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals in order to change America’s politics, more than 250 openly gay individuals have been appointed by Barack Obama to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch since he took office as president in 2009—more than all previous administrations combined.

The White House celebrated the unanimous vote in a statement Tuesday, referring to Hughes’ confirmation as “historic,” “a first,” and clearly indicating that Hughes’ homosexuality is part of the reason for the administration’s celebration:

This afternoon, the Senate unanimously confirmed Todd Hughes to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Like all of the President’s judicial nominees, Hughes has the intellect, experience, integrity, and temperament to be a successful judge. He is also gay.

The United States Courts of Appeals are the second-highest courts in the nation – a level just below the Supreme Court – and there has never been an openly gay judge to serve on a Court of Appeals until now.  Hughes’ historic confirmation is yet another “first” among President Obama’s federal judges.  Many of the President’s circuit judges have broken new diversity barriers – including three Hispanic, two Asian American, and one African American -- who are “firsts” in their respective courts.

The statement indicates that President Obama’s “firsts” among the federal judges who have “broken new diversity barriers” will instill “even greater public confidence in our justice system.”

Referring to Hughes’ identity as a homosexual, the statement concluded, "We look forward to the 'seconds' and 'thirds' who will come after Todd Hughes and his fellow 'firsts' currently serving on our courts."


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