Senate Confirms Nation’s First Openly-Gay Federal Appellate Judge

by Charles Joughin

With Historic Vote, Todd Hughes Joins U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

WASHINGTON – Today the United States Senate by a vote of 98 to 0 confirmed Todd Hughes to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, making him the first openly-gay person to serve as a federal appellate judge.  President Obama nominated Hughes, who is currently a Deputy Director in the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice, in February and his nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July by a voice vote.

"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 (HRC) 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.”

HRC urged President Obama to nominate Hughes and has strongly supported his confirmation by the Senate.  He has served at the Justice Department for nearly thirty years and is a recognized expert in government pay and personnel law, whistleblower claims, international trade litigation and veterans’ benefits claims. He has personally argued over 50 cases before the Federal Circuit in multiple areas of the court’s jurisdiction, including appearances before the en banc court.

Hughes graduated from Duke University School of Law and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Robert B. Krupansky on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.    

The Federal Circuit is based in Washington, D.C. and, uniquely among federal appeals courts, has nationwide jurisdiction in a variety of subject areas, including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, certain money claims against the United States government, federal personnel, veterans' benefits, and public safety officers' benefits claims.

Hughes becomes the eighth openly-gay federal judge with a lifetime appointment to the bench, including seven federal district court judges who were nominated by President Obama: Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, Pamela Ki Mai Chen, Michael Fitzgerald, Michael McShane, Alison Nathan, and Paul Oetken.  They joined Judge Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York, who was nominated by President Clinton in 1994 and took senior status in 2012. 

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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