The Senate Tuesday unanimously  confirmed Todd Hughes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, making him the country’s first openly gay federal circuit judge.

Hughes, a longtime Justice Department attorney, is deputy director of the commercial litigation branch in the civil division. He has specialized in federal personnel law, veterans benefits, international trade and government contracts and has argued more than 40 cases before the court that he is about to join.

Despite the contentiousness surrounding many judicial nominees, Hughes sailed  through the Senate Judiciary Committee in July on a voice vote and a 98 to 0 vote in the full Senate.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement praising the vote, 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.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit — not to be confused with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit or the D.C. Court of Appeals — was created in 1982 with the merger of the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate division of the United States Court of Claims.