Openly Gay Excluded from Obama's Cabinet Level Positions
On the heels of selecting an anti-gay Evangelical pastor to give the Invocation at the 2009 January Inaugural, Chuck Wolfe, Executive Director for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, criticized President-elect Obama for failing to name an openly gay member to his Cabinet.
“As we talk about either keeping or renewing America’s promise, which the president-elect has been talking about, apparently it does not yet extend to gay and lesbian people in the Cabinet of the president,” Wolfe said.
Gay activists lobbied Obama to select Mary Beth Maxwell, a lesbian and founding executive director for American Rights at Work, to become the next labor secretary. But NBC News reported today that Obama had picked Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) for the position.
The selection of Solis for labor secretary, the last open Cabinet seat in Obama’s administration, meant there were no remaining opportunities for an openly LGBT person to take a Cabinet-level position in the next White House.
Wolfe said Obama’s decision “sure is disappointing” and recalled how in a meeting with the transition team last week, officials told gay activists they would be happy with the president-elect’s appointments.
“I think it’s clear that they were either not telling us the truth or somebody misinterpreted what happy would mean,” Wolfe said. “Without a doubt, it’s frustrating to know that the transition team and the president-elect is not appointing a Cabinet that truly looks like America.”
Wolfe said the news was particularly troubling as it came the day after Obama’s selection of Rev. Rick Warren, who has been criticized for supporting Proposition 8 in California, to give the invocation at the Jan. 20 inauguration.
“Those are double whammies, aren’t they?” he said. “Not only do you not find a qualified LGBT person to serve in your Cabinet, at the same time, you announce publicly that the person who is going to lead the nation in prayer during the inaugural is a person who does not believe gay and lesbian people are equal in the eyes of the country. So you’ve now sent how many signals to gay and lesbian Americans that they are not equal?”
Wolfe said “plenty of high-qualified” gay people applied to join the Obama White House through the Presidential Appointments Project led by the Victory Fund, but “the transition team just didn’t choose them” for roles in the White House.
“It’s not a lack of LGBT people stepping up and being willing to serve,” he said, “but to date, the administration has found room for one person inside the White House, an assistant to the president.”
Earlier this month, Obama selected Nancy Sutley, a lesbian who currently serves as deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Sutley’s position is not a cabinet-level post.
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