by Jen Colletta
Philadephia Gay News
Last Wednesday marks the 100th day since President Obama took the oath of office and, for the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, never-before-experienced access to and inclusion in the federal government – although the LGBT community is still awaiting the appointment of an openly gay individual to the president’s cabinet.
Since taking office, Obama has appointed at least 35 openly LGBT individuals to federal posts. Nine of these employees were nominated for positions that required Senate confirmation, making Obama the first president ever to choose LGBT individuals for such positions within the first 100 days of the presidency.
Among the top LGBT appointments are John Berry as director of the Office of Personnel Management; Fred Hochberg as chair of the Export-Import Bank; Kathy Martinez as assistant secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy; Marisa Demeo as associate judge in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Nancy Sutley as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Mercedes Marquez as the assistant secretary for community planning and development and Raphael Bostic as assistant secretary for policy development and research, both at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Additionally, the administration has expressed that it adheres to a hiring practice that does not allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Obama administration’s inclusion of the LGBT community has also extended beyond employment opportunities.
In the past three months, scores of LGBT community leaders have been invited to the White House for a series of mainstream events.
On Feb. 18, Joe Solmonese, executive director of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, and Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, were included in the president’s reception for progressive leaders.
Solmonese also participated in the Feb. 23 Fiscal Responsibility Summit, as well as the March 5 White House Forum on Health Reform, along with Carey, Paul Kawata, president of the National Minority AIDS Council, and Frank Oldham, executive director of the National Association of People Living with AIDS.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the NGLTF, and Leslie Calman, executive director of the Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization, were all included in the March 11 launch event for the White House Council on Women and Girls.
The administration has also made strides to provide outreach to specific segments of the LGBT community.
In late March, Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and a collection of LGBT and ally students met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss the challenges faced by LGBT students, marking the first time that such a meeting took place.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has also included the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in its efforts to educate business organizations about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The efforts at inclusion have also trickled down to everyday LGBT families.
Recently, hundreds of same-sex couples and their children took part in the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House after the administration set aside tickets for more than 100 LGBT-headed families. This marked the first year – in the event’s more-than 130-year history – that such families were specifically invited to participate.
Also last month, representatives of the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control rolled out the administration’s Act Against AIDS campaign before nearly two-dozen HIV/AIDS and LGBT activists. The new program – a video, audio and print advertising campaign that seeks to spread awareness about the disease – is the first federal media campaign to address HIV/AIDS in nearly 20 years.
Although the full details of the fiscal-year 2010 federal budget have not yet been released, Obama has pledged that it will propose increased funding for domestic HIV/AIDS causes.
In terms of international efforts, Obama authorized the United States’ inclusion on the United Nations Statement on Sexual Orientation – a document that states that homosexuality should not be criminalized and that condemns human-rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Former President George Bush refused to sign the statement.
The administration also made public its official positions on LGBT issues on the White House Web site http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/civil_rights/, and Obama has made mention of the LGBT community during such large-scale public events as last week’s Day of Remembrance at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, where he noted: “To this day, there are those who insist the Holocaust never happened, who perpetrate every form of intolerance – racism and anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism and more – hatred that degrades its victims and diminishes us all.”