Obama Nominates First Openly Gay Federal Appeals Court Judge

President Obama last week nominated Justice Department attorney Todd M. Hughes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

If confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hughes would be the first openly gay federal appeals court judge – a prospect that is being lauded by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups, such as the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute, whose president and CEO, Chuck Wolfe, issued the following statement:

"…Todd Hughes would become the first openly gay federal appeals court judge in U.S. history. His nomination is a testament to the expanding opportunities for openly LGBT Americans who want to serve their country, and to the president's respect for the depth of talent and experience within the LGBT community. We look forward to his confirmation by the U.S. Senate."

To date, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund websites states that: "[T]he Obama-Biden administration has appointed more than 250 openly LGBT professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch; more than all known LGBT appointments of other presidential administrations combined."

By October 2010, Obama had already appointed 150 openly gay officials, surpassing President Bill Clinton, who appointed 140 openly gay officials during his two terms in office, according to The Associated Press.

Hughes has been the deputy director of commercial litigation in the DOJ's civil division since 2007. If confirmed to the federal appeals court, he would hear appeals on patent cases, trademark cases, and claims against the federal government, according to Reuters.

The promotion of LGBT candidates to staff positions in the Obama administration, as well as boards, advisory committees and grant reviewing groups throughout the country, is being facilitated by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute's Presidential Appointments Project, which submits the resumes of LGBT professionals and college graduates to open positions in the executive branch of the federal government.

Since 2011, the project has also appointed members of the LGBT community to serve in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration.

Aside from Hughes, other openly gay federal judges include: Judges Deborah Batts, Paul Oetken and Alison Nathan, all of the Southern District of New York; and Judge Michael Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California.

Openly gay judicial nominees re-nominated at the start of the 113th Congress include: Pamela Ki Mai Chen, nominated for the Eastern District of New York; Michael McShane, District of Oregon; William Thomas, Southern District of Florida; and Nitza Quiñones Alejandro, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Background: Hughes received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1989 and completed a joint degree program with Duke University, earning both his J.D. with honors and his M.A. in English in 1992. After graduating from law school, Hughes clerked for the Honorable Robert B. Krupansky of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 1994, he joined the Commercial Litigation Branch as a trial attorney. Five years later, he was appointed to be Assistant Director for Commercial Litigation, a role he held until assuming the title of Deputy Director in 2007.

He also has served as an adjunct lecturer in law with the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and as an instructor for Duke University's writing program.

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