A December 11 meeting between members
of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team and dozens of gay
and lesbian activists has fueled speculation of openly gay
appointments in an Obama administration.
With half the senior White House staff
chosen, gay activists have increased their concern over the lack of a
gay appointment to a cabinet level position.
And while no openly gay, bisexual or
transgender person has ever served in one of the fifteen cabinet
secretary positions, gay activists believe they have a strong case
“I think there's a growing sense in
this community that they expect to be part of this administration in
a very substantial way,” Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
Spokesperson Denis Dison told gay monthly The Advocate. “A
lot of people really do expect that in the very near future we should
have an openly LGBT cabinet secretary. But obviously, there are
throughout the administration, opportunities for people to both serve
and affect policy.”
With over 100 openly LGBT officials
elected nationwide in November, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund is
coming off its most successful election season ever.
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the
Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, made it clear to the Obama transition
team that he felt the political aspirations of the gay community had
not yet been fully realized: “We have paid our political dues, but
still have not benefited greatly from that.”
“[I]n the spirit of honest
communication, if America's promise is going to apply to all
Americans it is time that LGBT people be appointed to the cabinet and
to the highest ranks of government service,” he told members of
President-elect Obama's transition team.
The Obama administration will likely
make about 3,000 appointments – many coming after Obama's January
inauguration – but most Washington watchers believe the remaining
cabinet positions will be decided upon by Christmas.
Names most often cited as likely
candidates to high-ranking positions include former Interior
Department Assistant Secretary for Policy Management and Budget John
Berry, Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Energy and Development Nancy
Sutley, American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell,
and prominent constitutional law scholar Tobias Wolff.
Maxwell is being considered for
Secretary of Labor, while Smithsonian National Zoo Director Berry is
in the running for Secretary of the Interior.
Sutley served as a member of Hillary
Clinton's LGBT steering committee during the Democratic primary race;
Wolff served President-elect Obama in a similar capacity throughout
the presidential campaign.
Gay activists point out that many
gay-affirming, high-ranking appointments already announced –
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle
and Secretary of Commerce Bill Richardson included – may also
result in gains for the gay and lesbian community as they appoint
sub-cabinet positions and create a gay-friendly atmosphere.
“Young Americans need to know that
this country's promise applies to them – that they can achieve
success, and have a voice in their government, regardless of their
sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” Wolfe said.