President Obama nominated on Friday two openly gay men and supporters of his presidential campaign for ambassadorial posts in Europe.
Rufus Gifford, who previously served as finance director for the Obama campaign, was named as U.S. ambassador to Denmark, while James Costos, who’s vice president of global licensing and retail for HBO, was named U.S. ambassador to Spain. Both nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.
“It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals have agreed to join this administration to serve the American people,” Obama said in statement. “I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
In an interview with the Blade in September 2011, Gifford spoke about his support for Obama.
“I’ve been on board with the campaign in one way shape or form since January 2007 — nearly from the moment I met Sen. Obama,” Gifford said. “I was certainly a believer in him and his message and his politics, etc. So, I do believe that the last two years have been two of the very most productive years in American history. In my mind, truly, if we can get four more, think of how much more we can accomplish.”
Gifford was most recently the financial chair for the committee for the president’s inauguration. Prior to working for the Obama re-election campaign, he was finance director of the Democratic National Committee. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he was the California Finance Director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee and working as a political consultant in California from 2004 to 2008.
According to his White House bio, Gifford is a Federal Club Member of the Human Rights Campaign and a Partner in Conservation for the World Wildlife Fund. He received a B.A. from Brown University.
Costos has had various roles in the entertainment industry. Before joining HBO in 2006, he was CEO of Eight Cylinders, Inc., an entertainment marketing and licensing agency, and head of Promotions and Consumer Products at Revolution Studios in California. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, he began his career in New York as a fashion and retail executive.
According to OpenSecrets.org, Costos contributed more than $60,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the previous election and nearly $5,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign.
Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, congratulated both individuals on their nominations in a statement.
“We congratulate Rufus Gifford and James Costos, whose nominations reflect the president’s strong commitment to eliminating barriers to public service for LGBT Americans,” Wolfe said. “I’m confident they will both represent the United States with distinction.”
Another openly gay nominee was announced earlier this week. Daniel Baer, a State Department official, was named was tapped to become U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
John Berry, who formerly was director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is also reportedly on the short list as U.S. ambassador to Australia, but the White House hasn’t yet announced the nomination.
Three other openly gay men have previously served as U.S. ambassadors. David Huebner has served as U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa since 2009. Michael Guest was U.S. ambassador to Romania from 2001-2004 and James Hormel was U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg from 1999-2001.