Connect with us

National

Will Obama name LGBT appointees in Cabinet shakeup?

Berry, Hochberg discussed as potential nominees

Published

on

Fred Hochberg, Export-Import Bank, Human Rights Campaign, Washington Blade, gay news
Fred Hochberg, Export-Import Bank, Human Rights Campaign, Washington Blade, gay news

Chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States Fred Hochberg is among the names discussed for a Cabinet-level position. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As President Obama makes his transition to a second term in office, talk has already begun about building on the excitement from Election Day successes for the LGBT community with additional milestones: the first-ever appointments of an openly LGBT Cabinet member and G-20 ambassador.

LGBT advocates see the planned exodus of many high-ranking officials from the Obama administration at the start of the second term as an opportunity for Obama to replace officials with high-profile LGBT appointments.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said Obama has an opportunity “to represent the diversity of our great country” by appointing qualified LGBT people to high public office.

“Our community is rightly interested in the Cabinet and a G-20 ambassadorship,” Sainz said. “This president has been committed to ensuring that his administration is inclusive of all Americans and a second term gives him an opportunity to continue this progress.”

No president has ever appointed an LGBT person to the Cabinet before. Two individuals who already have high-ranking positions in the Obama administration have emerged as potential openly LGBT Cabinet members: John Berry as secretary of the interior and Fred Hochberg as commerce secretary. Berry currently serves as director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Hochberg is chair of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Berry has experience that would be relevant to heading a department charged with managing federal parks and natural resources. Most notably, he was head of the National Zoo in D.C. prior to his appointment as OPM director. Under the Clinton administration, Berry was assistant secretary of the interior for policy, management and budget and at the start of the Bush administration was director of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.

In addition to being head of the export credit agency for the United States, Hochberg also has a background that would make him a possible candidate for commerce secretary. Under the Clinton administration, Hochberg was deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration and later became the organization’s acting administrator.

An appointment of an openly LGBT person as U.S. ambassador to one of the countries in the G-2o, or countries with the 20 largest economies, would also be historic because no such nomination has happened before. However, three openly gay people have served as U.S. ambassadors. Former President Clinton made the first such appointment in 1997 when he named James Hormel as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Former President George W. Bush named Michael Guest as U.S. ambassador to Romania and President Obama named David Huebner as U.S. ambassador to New Zealand.

Denis Dison, spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said his organization continues to push for LGBT appointments at all levels of the administration as it has done since 2008 through the Presidential Appointments Project, a joint project led by the Victory Fund that serves as a talent bank for LGBT people seeking appointments in the administration.

“That obviously has been a great success,” Dison said. “The Obama administration has more out LGBT people than any other president — in fact, all presidents combined before him. So, we’re certainly going to continue with the project and making sure people understand that the project exists … and working with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel to make sure that they have the resources that we’re building here to provide those resumes.”

Dison said the Victory Fund has no specific goal for the appointment of an LGBT person to a specific office such as a Cabinet-level position or an ambassadorship, although he acknowledged such an appointment would be “absolutely” historic.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said in response to a Washington Blade inquiry, “I have no personnel announcements to make.”

In addition to the appointment of LGBT people to the Obama administration, advocates are also mindful about the impact of Cabinet-level departures on LGBT issues. One such departure is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who’s expected to step down.

That position is important to the LGBT community because the defense secretary can implement openly transgender service and administrative changes to provide gay service members spousal benefits afforded to straight troops — which include joint duty assignments, issuance of IDs, use of the commissary and family housing. Health and pension partner benefits can’t be afforded to gay service members because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Zeke Stokes, spokesperson for the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN, said his organization wants Obama to nominate a defense secretary who has “an unequivocal commitment to fairness and equality.”

“Should it not happen before he or she takes the helm of the Defense Department, the new Secretary should immediately use his or her authority to the extent possible under existing law to provide support and recognition to gay and lesbian military families, who today are being treated as second-class citizens by our military,” Stokes said.

According to a report from the Washington Post published on Monday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, is being considered for the role of defense secretary. The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee voted against DOMA in 1996 and in recent years has been an LGBT advocate and has come out for marriage equality. Another name that has been floated is former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican.

Another departure that will be noted by the LGBT community is that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her most high-profile pro-LGBT act was speaking to the United Nations in Geneva last year against LGBT human rights abuses, telling LGBT people across the globe who feel isolated in their countries, “You have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people.”

Other accomplishments include providing global benefits to LGBT employees and diplomats representing the country overseas and leading a department that has spoken against LGBT human rights abuses overseas, such as the proposed anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda. But she’s among a few high-profile Democrats who hasn’t publicly endorsed marriage equality.

The Washington Post report from Monday said Obama is considering naming Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as Clinton’s replacement. Kerry is another name that has been floated for the position.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

National

WATCH: Washington Post grills transphobic Libs of TikTok creator

Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik said she doesn’t believe in gender-affirming care & espouses other anti-LGBTQ+ viewpoints

Published

on

Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok is interviewed by Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz.in California. (Screenshot/YouTube The Washington Post)

Grilled on a range of topics during an interview with Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz, Chaya Raichik, spoke about the great replacement theory, the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary in high school student in Oklahoma, why she won’t delete her false accusations about the Uvalde shooter and other mass-shooters, her views on gender, feminism and more.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty verdict in first federal murder trial based on gender identity

Dime Doe killed in S.C. in 2019

Published

on

Dime Doe (Family photo)

A federal jury on Friday handed down a guilty verdict of a man accused of murdering a Black transgender woman in what is classified as the first in the nation federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity.

After a 4-day trial in a federal hate crime case, a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment, which included one hate crime count, one federal firearms count and one obstruction count, all arising out of the murder of Dime Doe.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

According to court documents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter was upset that rumors about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community. On Aug. 4, 2019, the defendant lured Doe to a remote area in Allendale, S.C., and shot her three times in the head. At trial, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritter murdered Doe because of her gender identity. Ritter then burned the clothes he was wearing during the crime, disposed of the murder weapon and repeatedly lied to law enforcement. 

This was the first trial under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for violence against a trans person. The Shepard-Byrd Act is a landmark federal statute passed in 2009 which allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families.”

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering federal sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

Continue Reading

Oklahoma

Okla. lawmaker describes LGBTQ people as ‘filth’

State Sen. Tom Woods made comment on Friday

Published

on

Oklahoma state Sen. Tom Woods (Photo courtesy of Woods' state Senate website)

Republican Oklahoma state Sen. Tom Woods took part in a public legislative panel forum on Friday, during which the panel was asked by a constituent about the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary Owasso High School student who had been attacked and beaten in a school bathroom. 

The Oklahoma Voice reported that Cathy Cott, a 64-year-old semi-retired resident, asked the lawmakers why the Legislature had such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of the state, what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children, according to the Tahlequah Daily Press, which first reported the remarks.

When she got no answer, she asked about the bills targeting the LGBTQ community.

“Why does the Legislature have such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of Oklahoma and what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children?” Cott asked.

Woods replied, “We are a Republican state — supermajority — in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma. You know we are a religious state. We are going to fight and keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we’re a Christian state” 

The Tahlequah Daily Press also reported several audience members clapped, while others appeared shocked.

Cott said in an interview with Oklahoma Voice that she was not surprised by Woods’ answer.

Cott said she has many family and friends who are LGBTQ.

“I have dealt with other state representatives and senators and been to lobby day and tried to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community when I can so I am used to it,” she said. “They haven’t said anything like this to me before where they describe citizens of the state as filth, but they let me know they just don’t care.”

She said Woods’ remarks absolutely contribute to the hostile climate in the state for the LGBTQ community.

Prior to his election to his seat to represent Oklahoma’s Senate District 4 in 2022, Woods was a farmer and business owner. He ran a dairy farm, feed store and trucking company. His district runs along the eastern border of Oklahoma from West Fort Smith to Grove, and runs into Tahlequah.

Another Republican, state Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, a former teacher, told the audience he’s always seen educators’ jobs as “to educate students, not indoctrinate students.”

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf said:

“The only ‘filth’ here is this vile statement from a sitting state senator. This is the kind of hate speech that incites deadly violence against our communities. This is what we mean when we say that the flames of dehumanization and hate have been fanned in Oklahoma. Enough is enough. There needs to be accountability for this climate of hate — and the damage being done.”

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis told the Blade:

“Enough is enough. Oklahoma’s Republican leaders are continuing to nurture a climate of anti-LGBTQ animus, modeling disgusting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, questioning our very humanity, attacking marginalized youth and educators who support them and improperly handling bullying and assaults at school. Leaders with a bully pulpit have the power to inspire empathy and understanding, but they also have the power to inspire hate, bullying and physical attacks. These so-called leaders fomenting hate, Sen. Tom Woods, Supt. Ryan Walters, Gov. Kevin Stitt are failing Oklahoma’s youth in dangerous and myriad ways.”

There has been national outage in reaction to the death of Benedict. Vice President Kamala Harris, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) are among those in leadership decrying the death and the political climate that LGBTQ advocacy groups say have been contributing factors.

HRC President Kelley Robinson has called for federal investigations by the U.S. Justice and Education Departments.

In her social media post, the vice president said: “My heart goes out to Nex Benedict’s family, friends, and their entire community. To the LGBTQI+ youth who are hurting and are afraid right now: President Joe Biden and I see you, we stand with you and you are not alone.”

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who in 2022 signed an anti-trans bill prohibiting students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates, wrote in his statement that “our hearts go out to Nex’s family, classmates and the Owasso community. The death of any child in an Oklahoma school is a tragedy — and bullies must be held accountable.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular