September 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Senate tees up historic vote on gay appellate court nominee
United States Capitol Building, dome, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Senate is set to vote Tuesday on a gay judicial nominee to a federal appeals court (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

The U.S. Senate is poised to make history on Tuesday when it may confirm an openly gay man for the first-time ever to a seat on a federal appeals court.

The Senate is set to vote on the confirmation of Todd Hughes, whom President Obama nominated in February, to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

After proceeding to the nomination at 11:15 am, the Senate will engage in up to 30 minutes of equally divided debate prior to the vote. If all time is used, at around 11:45 am, the Senate will vote on the nomination.

Adam Jentleson, a Reid spokesperson, said an agreement with Republicans was reached to proceed with the nomination, so 60 votes to end a filibuster won’t be necessary. A simple majority vote can confirm Hughes.

It’s unlikely Hughes will face difficulties on the Senate floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out his nomination in July by voice vote.

All previous gay federal judicial nominees were confirmed by the Senate to seats to lower-level seats on district courts. Never before has the Senate confirmed an openly gay person to a federal appeals court.

Obama made the attempt before. In 2010, Obama nominated Edward Dumont to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, but that nomination was rescinded after no action was taken on the appointment for 18 months and DuMont requested his name be withdrawn.

Hughes’ confirmation would also mean that only one openly gay judicial nominee remains pending before the Senate: the nomination of William Thomas, a Florida judge named to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He’d be the first openly gay black male to sit on the federal bench.

According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) continues to hold the Thomas nomination — citing concerns about his record — even though the senator has relinquished his hold on another judicial nominee to the same court.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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