US Senate confirms highest-ranking gay judge

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Following an approval vote by the US Senate, Todd Michael Hughes has become the most senior openly gay judge in America.

On Tuesday, he was elected unopposed as a US Federal Appeals Court judge by the Senate.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said: “Judge Hughes is a remarkably qualified jurist who has served his country tirelessly, and today that commitment to service made history. 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.”

Mr Hughes, who is from Ohio, currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice (DOJ), a position he has held since 2007.

President Obama nominated Mr Hughes to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on 7 February.

Seven openly gay judges have already been confirmed to serve on district courts, which rank one level below the circuit courts. The first, Deborah Batts in the Southern District of New York, took senior status in April 2012, and the remaining six were all appointed by President Obama.

Meanwhile, the nomination of Judge William Thomas, who would have become the first black openly gay man on the federal bench, has effectively been blocked after Republican Senator Marco Rubio announced he was withdrawing support.