When the Senate voted 98-0 to confirm Justice Department attorney Todd M. Hughes for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday, it didn't  just put another one of President Obama's judicial nominees on the federal bench: It seated the first openly gay federal circuit judge in history.

Hughes, who has served as deputy director of the commercial litigation branch of the Justice Department's civil division since 2007, has specialized in the kinds of issues that come up before the bench on which he will soon sit. Unlike the other 12 Circuit Courts of Appeals, the Federal Circuit specializes in a handful of designated issues including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, veterans' benefits, and public safety officers' benefits claims. Hughes could not be reached for a comment.