After some grousing that gays and lesbians weren’t getting high-profile appointments in the second-term Obama administration, the Human Rights Campaign finally has some reason to cheer.
The group praised the Thursday Senate confirmations — voted on in the last-minute burst of energy as the Senate prepared to leave for its August break — of five openly gay nominees:Dan Baer as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, John Berry as ambassador to Australia, Rufus Gifford as ambassador to Denmark, James Costos as ambassador to Spain, and Stuart Delery as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.
“Today the U.S. Senate confirmed five highly qualified nominees to important posts who happen to be gay,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “It is a testament to President Obama and the U.S. Senate that the sexual orientation of these nominees was irrelevant to their qualifications for their posts, as it should be. All Americans should be proud to have these fine public servants representing the interests of the United States.”
A fifth gay ambassador nominee, James Brewster for the Dominican Republic, is still awaiting confirmation.
Despite those numbers, the group has yet to see its stated goal met of having a gay or lesbian member of the Cabinet, although the confirmation of Berry — the first openly gay U.S. ambassador to a G-20 country — satisfies another of the group’s checklist items for diversity in high-level staffing.
The HRC has insisted that gay officials deserve a place at the (Cabinet) table — and the fundraising prowess and crucial campaign support that the gay community offered President Obama is certainly part of the equation (not that ambassadorships and the like are the quo of a quid-pro-quo transaction, but still...).
And contrast the naming of so many gay ambassadors with the situation just 16 years ago, when President Bill Clinton had to recess-appoint James Hormel to be the envoy to Luxembourg. Republicans in the Senate blocked his nomination, arguing that a gay man couldn’t be effective.