LGBTQ staffers who are familiar faces from the Obama years are among the choices for the upcoming Biden administration as the transition continues to ramp up. One prominent LGBTQ Trump supporter is among the appointments President Trump has made prior to his exit.
Stuart Delery, who served during the Obama years as acting U.S. associate attorney general and was the most senior openly LGBTQ official in the U.S. Justice Department’s history, was announced Wednesday as White House deputy counsel for President-elect Joe Biden.
Delery, currently a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, was also assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, a role in which he supervised the defense of the U.S. law in court on behalf of the federal government, and was senior counselor to Attorney General Eric Holder, according to his bio. Delery now lives in Washington, D.C., with his husband and two children
In 2012, Delery also represented the Obama administration in arguments before the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. After the U.S. Justice Department under Obama initially defended DOMA in court, the administration changed course amid pressure from LGBTQ activists and began arguing against it. Delery told judges on the First Circuit he wasn’t going to defend DOMA in any capacity.
Gautam Raghavan, who served as White House LGBTQ liaison under former President Obama and was chief of staff to Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), was also tapped as deputy director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office.
Annise Parker, CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement Wednesday Raghavan’s appointment “demonstrates the President-elect’s long-term commitment to building an administration that is reflective of America.”
“He believes a diverse administration best serves the president and our nation and will ensure appointing qualified LGBTQ people, women and people of color at every level of government remains a priority for the next four years,” Parker said. “Gautam also understands our community is not monolithic and that LGBTQ people of all races, sexual orientations and gender identities must be part of the new administration.”
More LGBTQ appointees may be on the way. Biden, to great fanfare, has previously announced Pete Buttigieg would be his pick for transportation secretary, potentially making him the first Senate-confirmed Cabinet appointee.
Few Cabinet-level positions are remaining for LGBTQ people to fill. Randi Weingarten and Denise Juneau, former superintendent of the Seattle public school system, had come up possible names for education secretary, but Biden ended up picking Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardono.
But the role of head of the U.S. Small Business Administration is still open. Fred Hochberg, who during the Obama years served as head of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, continues to be talked about as a possibility.
Biden has also yet to name his choice for U.S. attorney general. Maura Healey, who as Massachusetts Attorney General became the first openly gay state attorney general, has been named as a possibility, but she’s viewed as a long-shot amid reports Biden has narrowed his choice to either Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) or U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland.
The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which seeks to help qualified LGBTQ people obtain positions in the U.S. government, has been renewing its efforts calling on Biden to name a transgender person for an appointment subject to Senate confirmation, sources familiar with the talks told the Blade. No openly transgender person has ever sought or obtained Senate confirmation for a presidential appointment in U.S. history.
Although no exact position was named, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, who was passed over for Biden’s choice as U.S. surgeon general, still comes up. Others are Amanda Simpson, who as the first transgender woman presidential appointee served in the departments of defense and homeland security during the Obama years, and Shawn Skelly, a transgender veteran and Obama alum who currently serves on Biden’s landing team for the Defense Department.
Securing the appointment of a transgender person during the Biden administration has openly been one of the main goals of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, in addition to the naming of a Senate-confirmed openly LGBTQ Cabinet official. Another goal is the naming of an LGBTQ woman, transgender person or person of color to a position of U.S. ambassador.
Jamal Brown, a Biden transition spokesperson, responded with a general comment when asked by the Blade via email about potential LGBTQ appointments.
“President-elect Biden is working to build an administration that looks like America, starting with the first woman of South Asian descent and first Black woman to be vice president-elect, as well as a slate of historic nominees and appointees, to-date,” Brown said. “Over the coming weeks, our team will continue to build upon President-elect Biden’s legacy of advancing LGBTQ+ equality by shaping a government that reflects the breadth and diversity of our nation.”
Meanwhile, on the same day, President Trump shook things up with a slew of pardons and railed in a video he posted to Twitter against the coronavirus spending package, the the White House announced he had selected Richard Grenell as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
Grenell, a Trump loyalist who as former acting director of national intelligence was the first openly gay Cabinet member and was the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s re-election campaign, was among three individuals given seats on the council on Tuesday.
It remains to be seen whether Grenell will seek to amplify the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s mission to highlight gay and bisexual men who were victims of the Holocaust. Grenell didn’t respond via Twitter to comment.