The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group, criticized President Obama Friday for failing to nominate an openly LGBT person as part of his Cabinet.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for HRC, said, “it is quite disappointing” that no openly LGBT Americans are among Obama’s nominees in the wake of him finalizing his Cabinet.
“While the Cabinet is full of staunch allies, there is no reason why qualified LGBT Americans willing to serve their country should be overlooked, especially in a day and age when LGBT people are an integral part of the fabric of our nation as everyone from doctors to teachers to professional basketball stars,” Cole-Schwartz said. “The president has said it’s our job to remind him when he’s fallen short and while there’s much for which to applaud him, on this issue this president has fallen far short.”
President Obama rounded out his selections for the 15 posts in his second-term Cabinet without naming an openly LGBT person. Before leaving for Mexico and Costa Rica for discussions with leaders in those countries, Obama on Thursday nominated Chicago businessperson Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary as well as White House economic adviser Michael Froman as U.S. trade representative.
Earlier in the week, Obama named Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as his pick for transportation secretary. The president nominated Foxx, who’s black, for the position in the wake of criticism that his Cabinet lacked diversity and a stern letter from Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marsha Fudge (D-Ohio) who criticized Obama for not having more black people in his Cabinet.
Meanwhile, LGBT groups have been calling for the nomination of an LGBT person as part of Obama’s Cabinet and for an openly LGBT nominee as a G-20 ambassador.
Such a nomination would be historic because no openly LGBT person has ever before been named or served as a Cabinet member.
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, responded to the criticism about the lack of LGBT nominees in the Cabinet by pointing to Obama’s record on LGBT issues.
“The president is deeply committed to diversity in his administration, and he’s proud of the of LGBT appointments he’s made throughout all levels of his administration,” Inouye said. “Moreover, he has a strong record of accomplishment on issues of concern to the LGBT community and will continue to make progress in that area.”
Another group that has called for the appointment of an openly LGBT Cabinet member is the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Chuck Wolfe, the Victory Fund’s CEO, told an audience at the Equality Forum in Philadelphia on Friday that Obama’s failure to make such a pick was “disappointing.” But Wolfe noted that there remains time for an openly LGBT Cabinet pick before the end of Obama’s second term.
Obama has had opportunities to name an openly gay person as part of his Cabinet since the start of his second term, but none were taken. For example, many hoped that John Berry, the former head of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, would be named as interior secretary because of his background heading the National Zoo and a junior position he held within the department during the Clinton administration.
But that Cabinet role ultimately went to Seattle-based businessperson Sally Jewell, who helped with the effort to legalize marriage equality in Washington State. Still, the Washington Post has reported that Berry is on Obama’s short list for a nomination as U.S. ambassador to Australia.
Another name drawing speculation was Fred Hochberg — who’s gay and headed the U.S. Export-Import Bank during Obama’s first term — for a nomination as commerce secretary. An administration official told the Blade in December that Obama was closely looking at Hochberg for the role, but the president made another choice for that Cabinet post this week.
Yet another opportunity for an openly gay Cabinet nominee was California Assembly Speaker John Perez, who reportedly was on Obama’s short list for the role of labor secretary. That position instead went to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. Although he’s straight, he has one of the strongest records on LGBT rights in the Obama administration because he testified before the Senate in 2009 in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and helped implement the hate crimes protection law.
Despite the lack of an openly LGBT Cabinet member, Obama is known for making more openly LGBT appointees than any president before and named more than 260 openly LGBT appointees within his administration. Just last month, the Senate confirmed Eric Fanning for the role of Air Force under secretary — the second-highest civilian position for that service. And Obama has nominated 10 openly gay people to serve as federal judges — including Pamela Ki Mai Chen, the first confirmed openly gay Asian-American nominee — when only one openly gay person had previously served on the bench.