The Biden-Harris transition team has already named several LGBTQ people to key White House posts, and advocates hope it’s just the beginning.
President-elect Joe Biden has repeatedly vowed to make LGBTQ rights a priority in his administration. But he won’t be working alone: The former vice president has already tapped LGBTQ appointees for several key roles and gay rights advocates are hopeful that more will be named, including the first out Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate. There’s also a push, should an opening become available, for him to nominate the first openly LGBTQ justice to the Supreme Court.
The Biden-Harris transition team has promoted the president-elect’s “commitment to building an administration that looks like America.”
On Sunday, Karine Jean-Pierre, an out lesbian and chief of staff for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, was announced as deputy press secretary, and Pili Tobar, an immigration rights advocate and former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was named deputy White House communications director. Tobar, a lesbian, also worked as a communications director for the Biden campaign.
In November, Carlos Elizondo, who is gay and was Biden’s social secretary when Biden was vice president, was named White House social secretary.
‘Smart choices’ and ‘intersectionality’
Ruben Gonzales, vice president of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, which trains and advocates for queer candidates at all levels of government, noted that the LGBTQ people named to the incoming administration so far are all people of color.
“I think it speaks to the president-elect’s understanding of intersectionality,” he said.
– Karine Jean-Pierre.Gary Gershoff / Getty Images
Gonzales said it’s important to have LGBTQ people in the administration because “we know our lives better — we know what protections mean in health care, in housing, in the workplace.”
“Look at how Trump changed guidance about bathrooms, for example,” he added. “A trans person understands what that means in really stark terms.”
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan became the first openly transgender person to work in the White House when President Barack Obama appointed her to the Presidential Personnel Office in 2015.
She praised the Biden team’s “smart choices,” saying it selected talented candidates with impressive resumes.
“Just because they’re coming in doesn’t mean they’ll be working on LGBTQ issues,” she told NBC News. “When I was in the White House, the vast majority of us weren’t. We were working for the EPA, the Small Business Administration, on security issues. Having LGBTQ people at every table, at every level, is still crucial, though, because we are everywhere and are impacted by everything. You don’t want an initiative to land flat or miss an important segment of the population.”
Beyond an out Cabinet member, Freedman-Gurspan predicts a nonbinary person will be appointed at some level. “I know there are some interviewing,” she said.