- Blame Bush: 5 years later, that’s still the mantra, pollsters find
- John McCain to Harry Reid: I’ll ‘kick the crap’ out of you
- Dogs that talk: Researchers seek $10K for ‘No More Woof’ technology
- 1,000 firefighters called to battle stubborn Big Sur wildfire
- Black Friday brouhaha: Millions of Target shoppers hit by credit card theft
- Britain orders airplane to rescue citizens from violent South Sudan
- Mega Millions winner emerges as Georgia mom, in ‘disbelief’
- ‘Duck Dynasty’ Phil Robertson suspended ‘indefinitely’ for gay quip
- John Podesta eats crow: ‘I apologize to Speaker Boehner’
- U.S., China race to finish line on ‘invisibility cloak’
Obama has appointed most U.S. gay officials
At least 150 during first two years
Question of the Day
Less than halfway through his first term, President Obama has appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in history.
Gay activists say the estimate of at least 150 appointments thus far - ranging from agency heads and commission members to policy officials and senior staffers - surpasses the previous high of about 140 reached during two full terms under former President Bill Clinton.
“From everything we hear from inside the administration, they wanted this to be part of their efforts at diversity,” said Denis Dison, spokesman for the Presidential Appointments Project of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute.
The pace of appointments has helped to ease broader disappointment among gay rights groups that Obama has not acted more quickly on other fronts, such as ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military.
In a sign of how times have changed, few of the appointees - about two dozen required Senate confirmation - have stirred much controversy. It’s a far cry from the 1993 furor surrounding Mr. Clinton’s nomination of then-San Francisco Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg as assistant secretary for Housing and Urban Development.
Miss Achtenberg was the first openly gay official to serve at such a senior level, and she won confirmation despite contentious hearings and Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, who denounced her as a “militant extremist.”
“It’s both significant and rather ordinary,” said Michael Cole, a spokesman for the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign. “It’s a simple affirmation of the American ideal that what matters is how you do your job and not who you are.”
Gay activists, among Mr. Obama’s strongest supporters, had hoped he would be the first to appoint an openly gay Cabinet secretary. While that hasn’t happened - yet - Mr. Obama did appoint the highest-ranking gay official ever when he named John Berry as director of the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the nation’s 1.9 million federal workers.
Other prominent names include Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Export-Import Bank. Mr. Obama also named Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender appointee, as a senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department. And David Huebner, ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, is the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye confirmed the record number, saying Mr. Obama has hired more gay officials than the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations combined. He said Mr. Obama “is proud that his appointments reflect the diversity of the American public.”
“He is committed to appointing highly qualified individuals for each post,” Mr. Inouye said. “We have made a record number of openly LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender] appointments and we are confident that this number will only continue to grow.”
Mr. Dison’s group lists 124 of the appointees on its website. He said the remainder are not listed because they are lower-level officials not formally announced by the White House.
“We learn about a lot of these through informal networks and then work to confirm that they are indeed appointed and that they are openly LGBT,” Mr. Dison said.
One Obama nominee who met some opposition was Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor nominated to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Concerned Women for America accused Miss Feldblum of playing “a major role in pushing the homosexual and trans-sexual agenda on Americans.” Other conservative groups criticized her role in drafting the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a bill that would ban employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Mr. Obama is a strong supporter of that legislation.
Mr. Obama made Miss Feldblum a recess appointment in March after an anonymous hold in the Senate stalled her confirmation for months.
Another target for conservatives was Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, who was named to oversee the Education Department’s office of safe & drug free schools. More than 50 House Republicans asked Mr. Obama to remove Mr. Jennings from the post after reports surfaced about advice he gave more than 20 years earlier after learning a gay student had sex with an older man.
Mr. Jennings conceded that he should have consulted medical or legal authorities instead of telling the 15-year-old boy that he hoped he had used a condom. The Obama administration defended Mr. Jennings and declined to remove him.
It was in early 2008 that the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute focused its Presidential Appointments Project on steering thousands of resumes of qualified gay professionals to White House jobs. Mr. Dison said that push has helped increase the numbers, though it certainly helped to have a more receptive White House.
Mr. Cole, of the Human Rights Campaign, called the increase a welcome development, but said there is more focus on real legislative gains, such as ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
“For a community that is denied their equality, there will continue to be frustration at the pace of change,” he said.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
Fourth Amendment says Obama is not at liberty to collect metadata
- Bill Gates: The Secret Santa disguised as a 'friendly fellow' on Reddit
- Half of America strips religion from Christmas
- Gov't wasted $30 billion on 'pillownauts,' crystal goblets -- buying human urine!
- U.S. Army mulls wiping out memory of Robert E. Lee, 'Stonewall' Jackson
- Armed response, not restrictive gun laws, brought swift end to school shooting
- Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson suspended indefinitely for gay comments
- BOLTON: Nero in the White House
- NAPOLITANO: NSA spies pick up interference from the Constitution
- 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson: Gays 'wont inherit the kingdom of God'
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Nobody likes to talk about dying. But we can help.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
Does it take over 25 years in public service to really know what goes on in Washington?
A politically conservative and morally liberal Hebrew alpha male hunts left-wing viper
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow