Senate unanimously confirms first openly gay federal circuit judge

By a unanimous vote, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nation’s first openly gay federal circuit judge.

The vote was 98-0 to approve Todd Hughes, previously a Department of Justice lawyer, to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He will be the highest-ranking openly gay judge in the nation's history. 

Gay rights groups praised the Senate’s approval of the nomination.

“Judge Hughes is a remarkably qualified jurist who has served his country tirelessly, and today that commitment to service made history,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “As an openly gay man takes to the federal appellate court bench for the very first time, barriers to achievement for the next generation of LGBT young people are crumbling every day.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy also lauded Hughes’ confirmation.

I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench,” he said.

Hughes will be the eighth openly gay federal judge with a lifetime appointment. Seven openly gay judges have previously been confirmed to serve on district courts.