The White House disclosed on Aug. 10 that it was naming Raul Alvillar, an aide to Vice President Joe Biden, to serve as the interim point of contact for the LGBT community until a permanent liaison is named. Alvillar is gay.
But on the following day, the White House informed Politico that it had selected a permanent replacement for the position held by Brian Bond, the current White House LGBT liaison, who’s leaving his post later this month to work for the Democratic National Committee.
According to Politico, White House staffer Stephanie Valencia was named deputy director at the White House Office of Public Engagement. Bond has served as deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement, where he has acted as LGBT liaison while performing other duties.
Valencia’s appointment raised speculation among LGBT political insiders over whether the White House would be assigning the new LGBT liaison person to a new position within the Office of Public Engagement and whether the new post would be above, below, or the same as that of Bond’s in the White House pecking order.
The development comes at a time when Richard Socarides, the White House LGBT liaison during the Clinton administration, has criticized the Obama administration for not elevating the LGBT liaison post to the more authoritative title of special assistant to the president.
Such a title, which Socarides held during Clinton’s second term in office, gave him access to the president, according to Socarides, who now serves as president of Equality Matters.
White House spokesperson Shin Inouye informed the Blade last week of Alvillar’s designation as interim liaison to the LGBT community. This week, Inouye declined to say whether Valencia’s appointment was a signal that the new permanent LGBT liaison would be given a new title and new job duties in addition to his or her role as LGBT liaison.
Inouye also declined to comment on whether the new LGBT liaison would have LGBT-related issues as his or her sole job portfolio or whether the new person would have other duties like Bond had.
In his statement to the Blade last week Inouye said, “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. In the interim, Raul Alvillar from the Office of the Vice President will serve as the point of contact for the LGBT community at OPE.”
Inouye’s statement that the new LGBT liaison would be in place in October also raised speculation that the White House has already selected that person.
“How could they declare the new person will start in October if they don’t have someone lined up already?” said one LGBT activist who asked not to be identified.
The activist said Inouye’s statement that the new person would be a “full-time liaison to the LGBT community” suggests that the White House may be changing the position from the one held by Bond by assigning all or most of the new liaison’s duties to LGBT-related issues.
Winnie Stachelberg, former legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign who now serves as senior vice president for external affairs for the Center for American Progress, said she has learned from White House sources that Alvillar’s interim appointment was limited to taking on Bond’s duties as LGBT liaison at the White House.
“Raul is not taking over as deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement,” she said. “Raul is the interim replacement on the LGBT set of issues that Brian worked on. Stephanie has been named as the new deputy director of OPE, and her role and Raul’s role do not intersect or overlap,” Stachelberg said.
Stachelberg, who lobbies the White House on LGBT-related issues, said she had no knowledge of the title or other responsibilities the new permanent LGBT liaison at the White House will have.
But she questioned the need for a high-ranking White House official to serve as the sole LGBT liaison for the Obama administration, as suggested by Socarides.
“I think it’s important to note that Brian was never the only point person in the White House, and they have really assembled a team,” Stachelberg said. “And while Brian has left that team, the team remains.”