First Openly Gay Federal Appeals Judge Confirmed by the Senate

Browse By

Blog Search

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LBGT people and people living with HIV.
September 24, 2013

Today, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Todd Hughes to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit where he will become the first openly gay federal appellate judge in the country.

Hughes’ confirmation makes judicial history, however this is not the first time that President Obama has nominated an openly gay attorney to a federal court of appeals. In 2010, President Obama nominated Edward C. DuMont to the Federal Circuit. After his nomination languished for 18 months with no action from the Senate, DuMont withdrew his name from consideration.

This highlights the relentless obstruction in the Senate of federal judicial nominees. Just yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced that he was withdrawing his support for Judge William L. Thomas to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Judge Thomas would have become the first openly gay black man on the federal bench. Now, without Senator Rubio’s approval, Judge Thomas’ nomination is effectively blocked. Judge Thomas, who serves on the Miami-Dade Circuit, was nominated by President Obama with Senator Rubio’s support 10 months ago.

The unprecedented obstruction of judicial confirmations threatens the very foundation of our government. Federal courts issue decisions that affect nearly every aspect of life for LGBT people. With the Supreme Court deciding less than 100 cases a year, it is the appellate courts that have the final say in many of the most important cases. Likewise, federal district courts provide the gateway for achieving broader civil rights victories by issuing findings of fact that frame the cases and legal issues going forward.

The confirmation of Todd Hughes is a significant step forward towards achieving a judiciary that reflects the growing diversity of our country. Unfortunately, by denying Judge Thomas a simple up or down confirmation vote, Senator Rubio is taking us another giant step back.

Federal courts matter to the LGBT community. We must care about the courts if we care about our rights, our families, our neighbors and our society.

Find out what you can take action to protect our federal courts!