Senate confirms five openly “out” nominees

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The US Senate confirmed five openly out nominees in several prestigious roles in the Obama administration. John Berry was announced as US ambassador to Australia along with already confirmed ambassadors: Daniel Baer as the US ambassador to the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe, Rufus Gifford as the ambassador to Denmark, and James Costos as the ambassador to Spain. In a non-ambassadorial role, Stuart Delery was chosen as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division at the Justice Department.

“Today the U.S. Senate confirmed five highly qualified nominees to important posts who happen to be gay,” Human Rights Campaign Chad Griffin said in a press release. “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.”

The nominees have an established history to public service and to Obama’s administration. Gifford and Costos both provided large donations during Obama’s 2008 campaign, with Gifford later serving as the financial director for Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.

While Berry was the former head of the US Office of Personnel Management, Baer formerly worked in the State Department as assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor, as well as advancing LGBT rights overseas.

“All four of these men have the strong intellect, presence and skills needed to lead our interagency teams abroad,” the openly gay and former US ambassador of Romania, Michael Guest, said in an interview with the Washington Blade. “It’s heartening that the Senate recognized that these qualities, not their sexual orientation, are what matter in service to our country. They’ll be terrific American representatives, and I wish them well in their new duties.”

Berry received no opposition last week and stated that the talent he came across in the federal workforce motivated him.

“Along the way, I was reminded again and again of the tremendous diversity of our great country, building lasting relationships with fellow Americans from all backgrounds as we worked together to address shared challenges,” Berry said. “If confirmed, I will carry with me these many voices of America, along with a profound commitment to strengthening the shared values that lie at the heart of our strategic relationship with Australia.”

As Delery is a gay official in a non-ambassadorial role, he received accolades from former colleagues.

“I am pleased to congratulate Stuart Delery on his confirmation as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, an office he has held in an acting capacity for more than a year,” said US Attorney Eric Holder in a press release. “During that time, and throughout his service at the department – including his tenure as chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and senior counselor in my office – Stuart has exemplified the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”

Unconfirmed gay nominees are James “Wally” Brewster as an US ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Todd Hughes for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. If the Senate chooses Hughes, he’ll be the first openly gay official to serve on a federal appeals court. Brewster is currently receiving backlash for his selection, as a Dominican Republican cardinal venomously opposed his role and is organizing a “Black Monday” protest.

“We appreciate the Senate’s confirmation of many of the President’s nominees on Thursday,” White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said in a press release. “These individuals will serve the American people well in their new roles.”

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