With the appointment of California Representative Hilda Solis (Democrat) to the position of Labor Secretary, the aspirations of gay rights leaders for a cabinet-level appointment have most likely evaporated.

Openly lesbian Mary Beth Maxwell had been considered a strong contender for the position. Maxwell is the founding executive director of American Rights at Work, and had helped line up support for the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act.

It was just last week that members of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team met with dozens of gay and lesbian activists fueling speculation that a cabinet-level appointment might be in the offing.

But no openly gay, bisexual or transgender person has ever served in one of the fifteen cabinet secretary positions that report directly to the president.

In that meeting, 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 senior-level appointment of openly lesbian Nancy Sutley as chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality was announced earlier this week, despite having served as a member of Hillary Clinton's LGBT steering committee during the Democratic primary race. She will oversee coordination and implementation of environmental policies for the president.

Wolfe expressed his disappointment: “It's now clear that President Obama's top appointees will gather in a Cabinet Room that does not reflect the living rooms, board room or rooms of worship across this country. Openly LGBT people are accepted and involved in nearly all aspects of American life, but they still will not have a place at the table at the highest reaches of their government.”

Gay activists, however, 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 likely result in gains for the gay and lesbian community as they appoint sub-cabinet positions and create a gay-friendly atmosphere.

Solis, along with Ken Salazar and Bill Richardson, is the third Hispanic appointed to Obama's cabinet.