Gay, In-House Counsel

Are Diversity Milestones Just The Privileged Patting Themselves On The Back?

“The Senate confirmed Todd Hughes for a seat on the Federal Circuit without any opposition. This is what progress looks like: Hughes will be the first openly gay federal appellate judge in U.S. history.” ATL Morning Docket citing BuzzFeed.

It wasn’t planned, but the fact that this site mentioned the above today played to my column in this topic. Who gives two whits that Todd Hughes is gay? Is it really progress? Or just a factoid that gets too far into the personal life of a respected jurist.

I am fortunate to work with an extremely diverse group of people. Not because they are “diverse,” but because they are really good lawyers. The make up of our OGC speaks to the fact that hiring is blind at this company, and it is comforting to know that people get hired on other bases than what they look like, or their sexual orientation….

Judge Hughes was likely appointed to the District Court bench due to his political connections, but he was confirmed on the basis of his intellect and ability to sit through ridiculous questions such as “if you were faced with a death penalty case, would you be able to abide by the recommendations of a jury.” To which he would have answered, “as a federal judge it would be my duty to abide by the laws of the land,” and on and on. No one asked him, “what if you and your partner wanted to get married, would that impact your decisions?”

I find it reprehensible that his sexual orientation gets any mention. Just as revolting as the “First Black, First Latino” — it’s as though white media pats itself on the back every time we let one of “them” into the club. “See, we let one of them sit on the bench, now all our bigotry is disappeared — yay ‘Murica.’” And “out”? What does “out” mean? He holds hands with his partner in public? Or he signs his decisions with “John Hughes, Gay Man.” I mean, it is absurd, really, and insulting to Judge Hughes. And it glosses over the fact that there is such a backlog of jurists awaiting confirmation, that the Congress really needs to get off its collective ass and move some of these qualified folks to the bench.

I celebrate the fact that there are so many qualified attorneys in the profession, and that they come from all walks of life, backgrounds, challenges, etc. It is good to have input from people from all backgrounds. But federal judges are supposed to be a cut above. They are given a position for life and are supposed to carry out our nation’s laws without giving heft to their own peccadilloes, or backgrounds, or orientations, or religions, etc. The judges I have been fortunate enough to work with all perform their duties with a seriousness that is admirable and with intellects that are indeed above average. There are problem judges in the federal judiciary, to be sure, but lauding oneself, or one’s society, for confirming a gay judge is unseemly.

Now, if he was a gay Republican, that would be a story worth writing.

After two federal clerkships and several years as a litigator in law firms, David Mowry is happily ensconced as an in-house lawyer at a major technology company. He specializes in commercial leasing transactions, only sometimes misses litigation, and never regrets leaving firm life. You can reach him by email at

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