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Here are the history-making LGBTQ officials in the Biden administration

As the Biden administration celebrates Pride Month, it boasts an array of officials in its ranks who represent historic firsts in their respective positions.

White House officials frequently tout the diversity of the administration, including roughly 15 percent of all appointees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ).

Here is a look at some of the LGBTQ officials who have made history in their roles as part of the Biden administration.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg is the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member in U.S. history and has served as Transportation secretary in the Biden administration since February 2021.

Buttigieg gained national attention during his 2020 presidential campaign, when he rose from relative anonymity as mayor of South Bend, Ind., to a major contender for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

Rick Grenell, who served as the acting director of national intelligence from February to May under President Trump, was the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary but was not confirmed by the Senate.

After his nomination was announced in December 2020, Buttigieg recalled watching the confirmation hearing of James Hormel, an openly gay man nominated as an ambassador during the Clinton administration who faced staunch Republican opposition.

“So, two decades later, I can’t help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now, somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world or even in their own family,” Buttigieg said at the time. “And I’m thinking about the message that today’s announcement is sending to them.”

Karine Jean-Pierre

When Jean-Pierre stepped to the podium in the briefing room in May 2022 for her first briefing as press secretary, she acknowledged that she was breaking several barriers at once.

“I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position. I would not be here today if it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders,” Jean-Pierre said at the time.

Jean-Pierre previously served as principal deputy press secretary in the Biden White House before taking on the press secretary job in May 2022.

When she stepped in for then-press secretary Jen Psaki in May 2021 to hold a briefing, she became the first openly gay woman to deliver the White House press briefing and only the second Black woman to do so.

Ben LaBolt

An Obama administration veteran with ties to the Biden team, LaBolt is the first openly gay White House communications director.

LaBolt worked in the press shop during the Obama administration, but he briefly joined the Biden White House last year to assist in the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Biden earlier this year brought LaBolt back into the fold, tapping him as his new communications director after the departure of longtime aide Kate Bedingfield.

Rachel Levine

Levine has served since 2021 as an assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, becoming the first openly transgender four-star officer in the public health corps, or across the uniformed services of the military.

Levine was previously health secretary in Pennsylvania. She was confirmed by the Senate in March 2021 for her assistant secretary role, on a mostly party line vote of 52-48. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) supported her nomination. 

Levine has served in a leadership role in the public health service, a team of more than 6,000 people who respond to public health crises and natural disasters. The team also played a role in COVID-19 vaccination efforts at the start of the administration.

Ned Price

Price served as the State Department press secretary for roughly two years, becoming the first openly gay individual to do so.

As the face of the State Department’s communications team, Price held more than 200 briefings as the agency addressed a slew of major foreign policy issues, including the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He stepped down from the role in March to transition to a role working directly for Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Price previously worked from 2006-2017 as a CIA and National Security Council staffer during the Obama administration.

Chantale Wong

With her confirmation in December 2021, Wong became the first out lesbian and first LGBTQ person of color to be confirmed to the rank of ambassador.

Wong serves as the Biden administration’s director of the Asian Development Bank. The Senate voted 66-31 in late 2021 to confirm her to the position.

Wong previously served in the Obama administration in positions in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget.

Shawn Skelly

Skelly is the highest ranking openly transgender Pentagon official and the second transgender person to ever be confirmed by the Senate.

Skelly was confirmed in July 2021 as assistant secretary of Defense for readiness. A former Navy aviator, Skelly served on Biden’s Pentagon transition team following the 2020 election.

She is also the co-founder and vice president of Out in National Security, which advocates for increased representation of LGBT people in the national security workforce.

Federal judges

In addition to the officials working throughout the Biden administration, there have been a slew of federal judges nominated and confirmed over the past two years that have broken barriers as LGBTQ jurists.

Biden nominated the first two openly LGBTQ women ever to serve as federal circuit court judges in Beth Robinson of Vermont and Alison Nathan of New York, who both serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Judge Charlotte Sweeney, who Biden nominated in April 2021, is the first openly LGBTQ district court judge to serve the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

The Senate in February voted to confirm Judge Ana Reyes as a district judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, making her the first openly LGBTQ individual to serve as an Article III judge in the District of Columbia.

Under Biden’s presidency, Judge Gina Méndez-Miró became the first openly LGBTQ federal district court judge in Puerto Rico, Judge Jamar Walker became the first openly LGBTQ Article III judge in Virginia, and Judge Daniel Calabretta became the first openly LGBTQ judge to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Source: The Hill

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