For the second time in as many days, key gay and lesbian activists express disappointment with the Barack Obama transition team. After yesterdays announcement that Christian right wing and anti-gay Pastor Rick Warren will deliver the inaugural invocation, tonight it is apparent there will be openly gay or lesbian members of Obama's cabinet.
The transition team announced Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) will be the new Secretary of Labor. This was the last of two remaining cabinet positions—the other being Interior—which many gays and progressives hoped would be filled by a qualified gay or lesbian candidate. The last time an openly gay man or lesbian held a cabinet-level position was in the Bill Clinton Administration.
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, expresses disappointment and notes the president-elect's top appointees "will gather in a Cabinet Room that does not reflect the living rooms, board rooms or rooms of worship across this country. Openly LGBT people are accepted and involved in nearly all aspects of American life, but they still will not have a place at the table at the highest reaches of their government.
Solis' appointment was announced despite an intensive push for openly openly gay union activist Mary Beth Maxwell as labor secretary. In the last two weeks a grassroots campaign developed on Facebook and former Rep. David Bonior "mounted an aggressive behind-behind-the-scenes" push to press the Obama transition team and "top labor leaders to get behind Maxwell." But many insiders believed Maxwell's confirmation could have been difficult because the union activist is a leading champion for the Employee Free Choice Act—which is opposed by Republicans and the pro-business lobby.
The Obama team will make thousands more appointments in the coming months, and, there are some hopes the transition team will nominate gays and lesbians to the federal bench. Given the uproar over the Warren's prominent role in the inauguration, it seems likely the new administration will make a high level LGBT appointment. So far the only names mentioned are Fred Hochberg at the Small Business Administration. But ... this would be the very same post Hochberg held 15 years ago in the Clinton Administration and SBA was elevated to cabinet status. That's not "change." That's more like a plateau.
Some Background ...
News: Wanda Sykes, Mary Beth Maxwell, Oguchi [R20]
Openly Gay Labor Activist Mary Beth Maxwell Shortlisted as Labor Secy [R20]