First Gay Man Confirmed for Federal Appellate Bench

The United States Senate on September 24 unanimously confirmed Todd Hughes to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, making him the first out LGBT federal appellate court judge in history.

The White House blog wrote, “Hughes’ historic confirmation is yet another ‘first’ among President Obama’s federal judges. Many of the president’s circuit judges have broken new diversity barriers –– including three Hispanic, two Asian American, and one African American –– who are ‘firsts’ in their respective courts.”

Hughes, a 46-year-old graduate of Duke Law School, has served as deputy director in the Justice Department’s civil division since 2007.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has withdrawn his support for the nomination of a black gay Miami judge to the federal judiciary, thereby killing the appointment.

Judge William Thomas, who serves on the Miami-Dade State Circuit Court, was nominated to a seat on the Southern District of Florida federal bench with Rubio’s support 10 months ago. Though Thomas has the support of Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, both senators from a state must endorse a federal judiciary nomination for it to move forward.

Rubio is now citing concerns about Thomas’ “judicial temperament and his willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences,” based on several rulings the senator cited. Others in Florida’s law enforcement community are defending Thomas and some have suggested Rubio’s actions came in response to increasing difficulties he is having with his conservative base.

The Times quoted Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings saying, “That is a slender reed for Senator Rubio to hang this on. Decisions in this country need to be made by females and Latinos and Asians and blacks.”

Yolanda Strader, president of a Miami association of black attorneys, said, “It would be unfair to prevent a well-qualified judicial nominee from proceeding with the nomination process because he is an openly gay black male.”