In a little-noticed development, the White House released a statement on Monday announcing President Donald Trump has nominated gay longtime U.S. Foreign Service officer Robert S. Gilchrist to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania.
Gilchrist is a former president of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, or GLIFAA, according to a statement on the group’s website. GLIFAA is an officially recognized organization representing LGBT employees at the State Department and its Foreign Service arm as well as other federal agencies and entities working in foreign affairs.
“Robert S. Gilchrist is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister- Counselor, and currently serves as the Director of the Operations Center at the Department of State,” the White House statement says.
“Previously, Mr. Gilchrist was Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Sweden, Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Estonia, and the Director of Nordic and Baltic Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs,” the statement says.
The statement says Gilchrist’s earlier assignments included serving as Deputy Political Counselor at the United States Embassy in Iraq, Chief of the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy in Romania, and Special Assistant to the Office of the Deputy Secretary of State. It says he speaks Spanish, French, Estonian, and Romanian.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gilchrist would become the third openly gay U.S. ambassador appointed by President Trump. Last year, the Senate confirmed gay Trump nominee Richard Grenell, a high-level U.S. official at the United Nations during the administration of President George W. Bush, as ambassador to Germany. Also in 2018, the Senate confirmed gay Trump nominee Randy Berry, a career Foreign Service officer, to be U.S. Ambassador to Nepal.
President Bill Clinton appointed James Hormel as the nation’s first openly gay U.S. ambassador in 1999. Hormel served as Ambassador to Luxembourg. President Barack Obama appointed seven openly gay U.S. ambassadors during his two terms in office.
Gay former Foreign Service officer Michael Guest, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Romania under the George W. Bush administration, currently serves as senior adviser to the Council for Global Equality, a U.S.-based organization that advocates for U.S. foreign policies supportive of LGBT equality. He called Gilchrist an excellent pick for the post of Ambassador to Lithuania.
“Bob is a superbly qualified nominee who knows how to work issues both with host countries and the Washington policy community,” Guest told the Blade. “He’ll do an excellent job in advancing our country’s interests abroad.”
Ruben Gonzales, vice president of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocates for openly LGBT presidential appointments, said he believes Gilchrist was nominated because his experience is “unrivaled, not because the Trump administration wants diverse representation abroad.”
“Bob Gilchrist is the type of career diplomat you want in ambassadorships – a committed public servant who understands the region and is proactive in representing the best of American values,” Gonzales said.
“Throughout his tours abroad, Bob served in difficult places but was proud of his sexual orientation and outspoken about the need for countries to extend equality to LGBTQ people,” he said. “His presence alone will be impactful in a conservative country like Lithuania.”
“Log Cabin Republicans is heartened that the President has nominated yet another highly qualified individual from the LGBTQ community to a high-ranking post in the government,” said Charles Moran, a national spokesperson for Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT Republicans.
“As Ambassador, Bob will represent the best of America’s values to our European ally, Lithuania,” he said. “Bob’s leadership in GLIFAA is well known and adds to his impressive foreign policy credentials, to which the White House certainly took into consideration upon making their appointment.”