The White House has designated a gay administration official as the interim point of contact for the LGBT community until a permanent liaison is named, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said Raul Alvillar, who currently serves as associate director for public engagement at the Office of the Vice President, will serve as a temporary replacement for Brian Bond, the current LGBT liaison. Bond, who’s leaving later this month for a position at the Democratic National Committee, is deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and handled LGBT outreach as part of his portfolio.
“Following Brian’s departure from the White House to his new position at the DNC, we will have a full-time liaison to the LGBT community in the Office of Public Engagement in October,” Inouye said. “In the interim, Raul Alvillar from the Office of the Vice President will serve as the point of contact for the LGBT community for OPE.”
Alvillar, 33, served for two-and-a-half years as the congressional relations officer for the Department of Housing & Urban Development. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Alvillar was western political director for Obama and assisted with LGBT outreach and LGBT super delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
David Smith, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of programs, said in a statement HRC has heard “good things” about Alvillar.
“He has been with President Obama since the earliest days of the campaign,” Smith said. “Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Jon Carson, director of the Office of Public Engagement continue to shepherd our issues in the White House so we don’t anticipate these changes to cause any problems.”
Winnie Stachelberg, senior vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, said she’s “thrilled” the White House has selected Alvillar as the interim LGBT liaison because of his work on LGBT politics and issues.
“He’s certainly got the ear of senior leadership in the White House, and it’s a good step,” Stachelberg said. “He’s got a sense of the policy from having worked in the legislative office. He’s worked in state politics, which I think is terribly important. He’s worked on the campaign. So, he’s someone who’s absolutely worked in a range of different positions, which I think will help him, and, ultimately, help the community to navigate these times and continue the progress that we’ve made on LGBT issues in the past two-and-a-half years.”
It’s unclear from the statement given by the White House whether Alvillar, or his permanent successor, will have the same role as Bond or if the position will be modified. Some LGBT advocates have been calling for the appointment of a more senior LGBT adviser who could more directly and consistently counsel Obama on LGBT issues.
Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said the opportunity for the White House to create a more senior LGBT adviser still exists in the time period before a permanent replacement for Bond is named.
“What I think the community wants and deserves is a senior, full-time White House official at the special assistant or higher level whose sole responsibility is to represent the interests of the LGBT community at the White House and in the federal government,” Socarides said. “We deserve no less — and the time, the political moment calls for it. It should be clear to everyone.”
But Stachelberg maintained Obama already has a circle of senior advisers who counsel him on LGBT issues — including Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president; Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and John Berry, who’s gay and director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — and said the appointment of a senior LGBT adviser would be redundant.
“What the White House has with respect to LGBT issues is a senior leadership team to work on these issues,” Stachelberg said. “It’s important that it’s not just about a person, but that it’s about the senior leadership team that the president has around him that really deals with these issues all the time.”