The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Todd Hughes to serve as a judge on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

With the 98-0 vote, Hughes became the nation's first openly gay federal appellate judge.

The United States Courts of Appeals are the second-highest courts in the nation – a level just below the Supreme Court.

President Barack Obama nominated Hughes for the post in February.

Since 2007, Hughes, 46, has served as the Deputy Director of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division at the United States Department of Justice. In 1999, he was appointed to be Assistant Director for Commercial Litigation, a role he held until assuming the title of deputy director.

“I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said in a statement released after Hughes' confirmation.

Writing at the White House blog, Kathy Ruemmler, a legal adviser to the president, said that Hughes, like all of the president's judicial nominees, “has the intellect, experience, integrity and temperament to be a successful judge. He is also gay.”