Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Judge To Federal Appeals Court

Despite Ted Cruz’s best efforts, the U.S. Senate actually did accomplish something of substance today: It confirmed Todd Hughes to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals and, in doing so, made him the highest-ranking openly gay judge in the nation’s history.

President Obama nominated Hughes, a Duke Law School graduate and current deputy director of the Justice Department’s commercial litigation branch, in early February, and he sailed through confirmation on a 98-0 vote. Obama has appointed several openly gay judges to serve in district courts, but Hughes is the first out judge to be successfully confirmed for service in a federal appeals court.

“Today’s vote to confirm Todd Hughes marks another milestone in the long journey toward justice and equality,” said the president of Alliance for Justice, a progressive group that tracks judicial nominations. “Alliance for Justice long has fought for a federal judiciary that reflects the full diversity of America and a confirmation process that evaluates candidates based on their legal expertise, not how they look or who they love.”

The Human Rights Campaign also praised Hughes’ confirmation, calling him “an eminently qualified nominee who will happen to shatter a barrier” once he assumes his post.

While Hughes’ is the first out judge to be confirmed for federal appeals court, he’s not the first to be nominated. Obama selected Edward DuMont to serve on the Federal Circuit in 2010, but his nomination languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and DuMont ultimately withdrew his name from consideration.