President Trump made one of his last acts before the Labor Day weekend nominating foreign policy expert Ric Grenell as U.S. ambassador to Germany, the first openly gay major appointment of the current administration.
The White House announced Trump had named Grenell to the post, which requires U.S. Senate confirmation, in a statement late Friday along with scores of other nominees.
The nomination was expected. Media reports in July indicated Trump would tap Grenell for the post, but Trump hadn’t formally made the designation until this time.
According to his bio, Grenell founded the international consulting firm Capitol Media Partners in 2010 and served in various roles as a public communications adviser for nearly two decades. Under the George W. Bush administration, Grenell was the longest serving U.S. spokesperson at the United Nations and served four United States Ambassadors.
For a period of less than two weeks, Grenell served during the 2012 presidential election as a foreign policy spokesperson for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but resigned amid pressure from social conservatives over his sexual orientation. Grenell never had the opportunity to speak publicly in the role.
Grenell, who has described himself as a gay conservative Christian, has a same-sex partner, Matt Lashey. According to The Atlantic, the two have been together 15 years and Lashey himself is a conservative Christian who graduated from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.
At times, Grenell has supported LGBT rights, endorsing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 and supporting same-sex marriage. Grenell hailed Trump for saying he’s “fine” with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality, although the president’s words seemed to fall short of a full endorsement.
On the other hand, Grenell has expressed skepticism over the Student Non-Discrimination Act and former President Obama’s 2014 executive order against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.
But Grenell is perhaps best known on Twitter for his combative relationship with reporters, including those from the Washington Blade. Taking a cue from Trump, who has declared war on the media, Grenell often accuses reporters of harboring biases that undermine their reporting.
Grenell is named as U.S. ambassador to Germany at a time of continued cooperation between the United States and Germany, but also tension. Merkel has criticized Trump for his approach to climate change and North Korea. Trump, in turn, has called on Germany, which spends 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, to double its expenditures in this area.
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, hailed the news Grenell was confirmed nomination as U.S. envoy to Germany.
“It’s exciting to see Mr. Grenell nominated to such an important post at such an important time,” Angelo said. “As a member of our Los Angeles Chapter, working to ensure his confirmation will be a priority of Log Cabin Republicans in the weeks ahead.”
Grenell earned his bachelor’s degree from Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., and his master’s in public affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Aisha Moodie-Mills, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, said although her organization normally favors LGBT appointments, she has strong reservations about Grenell.
“LGBTQ presidential appointees can be critical difference-makers when they hold a broad vision of equality and are empowered to enact it,” Moodie-Mills said. “Unfortunately, past statements by Richard Grenell make clear he is not supportive of the entire LGBTQ community – including LGBTQ Muslims, immigrants and people of color. His praise for President Trump as a ‘historic’ pro-LGBTQ president is completely delegitimized by Trump’s appointment of an almost entirely anti-LGBTQ cabinet, as well as his actions attacking trans students and military members.
Nonetheless, Moodie-Mills said Grenell has a real opportunity to make change upon his confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Germany.
“The LGBTQ community is watching Grenell as he takes his post in Germany,” Moodie-Mills said. As Trump’s first openly LGBTQ appointee, he has an opportunity to influence the administration and play a meaningful role in a country that just passed marriage equality. But his blind loyalty to Trump and his hateful policies give us little hope. Only Grenell can decide whether to stand up for equality, or continue his delusions about Trump’s intentions for our community.”
Grenell wasn’t the only openly gay appointment Trump made on Friday. Trump also nominated James Abbott to membership of the Federal Labor Relations Authority for a five-year term expiring July 1, 2020. A member of D.C. Log Cabin, Abbott currently serves as counsel to the Federal Labor Relations Authority