Remember those heady early days of President Obama’s second term, when minority groups had high hopes of seeing themselves represented in the new Cabinet?
After a slew of nominations, there’s more disappointment than cheers from some corners. Over at the Human Rights Campaign, in particular, proponents of gay rights fell short of their stated goal: There should be at least one gay Cabinet member.
With only one Cabinet-level position still open, the head of the Small Business Administration, the Cabinet is still a straights-only group.
“There’s a tremendous sense of disappointment,” says Fred Sainz, the HRC’s vice president for communications and marketing. “We are part of every population. Gays and lesbians have earned a right to be represented in the President’s cabinet, and its something that we’ll continue to push for.”
There’s reason for the letdown. Not that Cabinet appointments are quid pro quo, but gays did make up a large number of Obama’s top fundraisers, and gay voters were solidly in his corner. And an openly gay Cabinet member would be a historic first.
We hear there was at least one gay candidate in the mix for the slate of positions Obama, but other considerations — including perhaps the damaging perception that the White House could have a “woman problem” — led him to name others.
The HRC may still get another item on its wishlist, a top ambassadorship; those announcements have yet to be made. And there are plenty of undersecretary slots and the like that could be filled by LGBT appointees. But that’s not the brass ring. “There are few consolation prizes,” Sainz says. “This is a key priority.”
It’s clear Obama still has the strong support of the LGBT community, but instead of the usual plaudits they offer the president, this time they’ve got a complaint.
Sainz noted that Obama has asked his allies and supporters to let him know when he’s falling short. “It’s incumbent on us to let him know that we do consider this a failure.”