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Berry, four other gay nominees confirmed to high-ranking posts

In first, Senate approves openly gay U.S. ambassador to G-20 nation

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John Berry, Office of Management and Budget, Obama Administration, Australia, gay news, Washington Blade
John Berry, Office of Management and Budget, Obama Administration, Australia, gay news, Washington Blade

John Berry was confirmed by the Senate as U.S. ambassador to Australia along with other gay nominees. (Photo public domain).

The U.S. Senate confirmed for the first time an openly gay man as ambassador to a G-20 country with no opposition on Thursday evening along with four other out nominees.

John Berry, former head of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay Obama administration official, was approved for the position of U.S. ambassador to Australia by unanimous consent en banc along with dozens of nominees, including other gay appointees.

During his confirmation hearing last month, Berry said he was inspired by the talent he saw in the federal workforce and would take that experience with him to his new post.

“Along the way, I was reminded again and again of the tremendous diversity of our great country, building lasting relationships with fellow Americans from all backgrounds as we worked together to address shared challenges,” Berry said. “If confirmed, I will carry with me these many voices of America, along with a profound commitment to strengthening the shared values that lie at the heart of our strategic relationship with Australia.”

Other openly gay men confirmed to ambassadorial posts were Daniel Baer, who was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe; Rufus Gifford, who was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Denmark; and James Costos; who was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Spain.

Michael Guest, who’s gay and a former U.S. ambassador to Romania, told the Washington Blade each of the ambassadorial appointees are well-qualified to serve in their new posts.

“All four of these men have the strong intellect, presence and skills needed to lead our interagency teams abroad,” Guest said. “It’s heartening that the Senate recognized that these qualities, not their sexual orientation, are what matter in service to our country. They’ll be terrific American representatives, and I wish them well in their new duties.”

Another openly gay nominee was also confirmed for a non-ambassadorial post. Stuart Delery, was confirmed as assistant attorney general for the Civil Division at the Justice Department after having served in an acting capacity in that role.

Delery had represented the Obama administration at the district and appellate court level during oral arguments and contended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act should be struck down.

U.S. Attorney Eric Holder had kind words for Delery in a statement following the news the Senate had confirmed him for a high-level position within the Justice Department.

“I am pleased to congratulate Stuart Delery on his confirmation as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, an office he has held in an acting capacity for more than a year,” Holder said. “During that time, and throughout his service at the department – including his tenure as chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and senior counselor in my office – Stuart has exemplified the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, praised the Senate in a statement for confirming each of the five nominees and also said they’re well-qualified to serve.

“Today the U.S. Senate confirmed five highly qualified nominees to important posts who happen to be gay,” Griffin said. “It is a testament to President Obama and the U.S. Senate that the sexual orientation of these nominees was irrelevant to their qualifications for their posts, as it should be.  All Americans should be proud to have these fine public servants representing the interests of the United States.”

Each of the nominees has a history of commitment to public service and the Obama administration. Baer previously worked in the State Department as assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor and worked to advance LGBT rights overseas as part of his portfolio.

His new post at OSCE, which is based in Vienna, comprises 57 European, Asian and North American countries that cooperate on security, terrorism, economic and human rights issues.

Daniel Baer, United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, gay news, Washington Blade

Daniel Baer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

During his confirmation hearing, Baer emphasized the link between advancing human rights overseas and protecting security.

“Today, no serious observer can doubt the link between human rights and security,” Baer said. “We know that respect for human rights cannot be relegated to the ‘nice to have, but not essential’ category, because there is no genuine security in the absence of respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.”

Gifford and Costos gave strong support to President Obama in his election efforts and the Democratic Party in years past. Gifford raised money for Obama’s campaign in California in 2008, then served as finance director of the Democratic National Committee before becoming finance director for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Costos, vice president of global licensing and retail for HBO, contributed more than $60,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the previous election and nearly $5,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign.

One pending gay nominee yet to be confirmed by the Senate is Todd Hughes, who was appointed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out his nomination last week. Upon confirmation, he’ll become the first openly gay person to serve on a federal appeals court.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, commended the Senate for the approving these openly gay nominees.

“We appreciate the Senate’s confirmation of many of the Presidents nominees on Thursday,” Inouye said. “These individuals will serve the American people well in their new roles.”

Another openly gay ambassadorial not yet confirmed by the Senate is James “Wally” Brewster, who was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republican. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has yet to hold a confirmation hearing for him.

Religious groups are opposing his confirming in that country. In July, a high-ranking Catholic cardinal used an anti-gay slur to describe him and religious leaders organized a “Black Monday” protest to oppose him. It’s unclear if this opposition is playing a role in the Senate’s delay in confirming Brewster.

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First lady warns Trump is ‘dangerous to the LGBTQ community’ at HRC event

Jill Biden spoke in Arlington, Va., on Friday

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson introduces the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Human Rights Campaign's Equality in Action event on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Arlington, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

Delivering a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality in Action event Friday, First lady Jill Biden warned former President Donald Trump is “a bully” who is “dangerous to the LGBTQ community.”

Her appearance at the three-day volunteer and board gathering at the Sheraton Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., comes as part of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s “Out for Biden” program, which aims to “mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

“Today, this community is under attack,” Biden said. “Rights are being stripped away. freedoms are eroding. More and more state laws are being passed targeting this community. Just last month, we had to fend off more than 50 anti-gay amendments that Republicans tried to force into the government funding bill.”

“These were extreme measures aimed directly at this community — measures that would have limited health care and weakened protections for same sex couples,” she said. “And they served only one purpose to spread hate and fear.”

In a nod to her long career as an educator, Biden said, “History teaches us that our rights and freedoms don’t disappear overnight. They disappear slowly. Subtly. Silently.”

She continued, “A book ban. A court decision. A ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. One group of people loses their rights and then another. And another. Until one day you wake up and no longer live in a democracy … This is our chapter of history and it’s up to us how it ends.”

Biden then highlighted some of the advancements for LGBTQ rights secured under the Biden-Harris administration.

“Thanks to President Biden, marriage equality is now the law of the land,” she said. “He ended the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. He’s made it possible for trans Americans to serve openly and honorably in our military. And he’s standing firmly against conversion therapy.”

“Yes, there are forces outside these walls that are trying to erase these hard fought gains, trying to unwind all the progress that we’ve made,” Biden said. “They want to take our victories away, but we won’t let them. Your president will not let them — I will not let them.”

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‘Out for Biden-Harris’ LGBTQ-targeted campaign is launched

Several events planned in coming weeks

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Pride celebration, June 10, 2023, at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The Biden-Harris campaign on Wednesday debuted “Out for Biden-Harris,” which is a “national organizing and engagement program to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

Out for Biden-Harris “will train supporters to organize within their own networks and leverage messengers from the community to ensure we are meeting LGBTQ+ voters where they are,” the campaign wrote in a press release announcement.

“From drag queens to elected leaders to LGBTQ+ faith leaders, Team Biden-Harris will use a wide range of validators to communicate what’s at stake for the LGBTQ+ community in this election and why it’s critical that we vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

The campaign also previewed some of the events and initiatives in coming weeks, which will include:

  • A virtual organizing call featuring actor Wilson Cruz, Congressman Robert Garcia, HRC President Kelley Robinson, to mobilize LGBTQ+ supporters;
  • A series of virtual relational organizing trainings focused on activating and reaching new volunteers targeting battleground voters. The campaign will be engaging trusted messengers, including high-profile and trusted messengers in the LGBTQ+ community, like Brita Filter, Danica Roem, Gina Ortiz Jones, and Rev.
  • Hosting a series of Out For Biden-Harris house parties and community events including events in Phoenix, Arizona, Ferndale, Michigan, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Las Vegas, Nevada to mobilize supporters.
  • First Lady Jill Biden will be a featured speaker at the Human Rights Campaign Equality In Action Conference bringing together a network of 400 organizers and activists in Arlington, VA.

The campaign noted that LGBTQ voters will be “a key part” of its coalition, while 39 percent of voters consider LGBTQ equality a “make-or-break issue.”

“In 2020, nearly 11,000 LGBTQ+ volunteers mobilized to help elect President Biden and Vice President Harris,” the campaign wrote. “This year, Out for Biden-Harris will re-engage these supporters and build on their work. The program is designed around the idea that there is no better messenger to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters than their friends and neighbors to bring new supporters into our campaign.”

The Biden-Harris administration is the most pro-LGBTQ in history, and LGBTQ groups with a combined 3.8 million members have endorsed President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign.

However, “the fight for equality for all Americans is at stake this November as Trump and his allies plan to roll back the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ Americans,” the Biden campaign wrote. “Trump and his MAGA allies are running on an extreme, anti-LGBTQ+ agenda which would push to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, even going after the right to marry who you love.”

“LGBTQ+ voters are a force to be reckoned with. They were critical to our victory in 2020, and they will be critical to winning again this November,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez. “That’s why we’re thrilled to launch Out for Biden-Harris, which will harness the LGBTQ+ community’s organizing prowess to reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris this November.”

Chavez Rodriguez continued, “LGBTQ+ Americans couldn’t have more at stake this election: Donald Trump and his extremist allies are running to gut LGBTQ+ rights and erase history as their top priorities. LGBTQ+ Americans deserve leaders who will fight for every American’s freedom and dignity. That’s what President Biden and Vice President Harris have done throughout their time in office, and what they will do if reelected, including pressing Congress to pass the Equality Act.”

“There has never been a more critical time to protect the rights of all Americans, no matter who you love or how you identify, and Out for Biden-Harris will be critical to not just safeguarding, but strengthening the rights and voice of every single American,” she said.

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Melania Trump to host Log Cabin Republicans event

Former first lady is close with the group

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Melania Trump, gay news, Washington Blade
Former First Lady Melania Trump (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former first lady Melania Trump is back on the campaign trail with plans to host a fundraising event for the conservative LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans on April 20 at Mar-a-Lago, Politico reported on Thursday.

Funds will be used to support the group’s “Road to Victory” program, which will target voters in swing states. LCR has had a close relationship with Mrs. Trump, who was a special guest for its Spirit of Lincoln Gala in 2021, where she received the Spirit of Lincoln Award.

Politico reports that the host committee for this month’s event will include GOP donors Saul Fox, Amanda Schumacher, Bill White, Bryan Eure and Richard Grenell, who is gay and served as ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration.

“Melania Trump’s work as first lady, from helping children reach their full potential to championing a more inclusive Republican Party, has been historic,” LCR President Charles Moran said in a 2021 press release concerning the Spirit of Lincoln event.

“Her vocal support of Log Cabin Republicans has been a signal to Republicans everywhere that it is possible to simultaneously be conservative and support equality under the law for all Americans,” he said.

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