As we have stated before, the current administration is characterized as much what they did against LGBTQ+ rights in the United States (which unfortunately was not inconsequential) as what they did not do, particularly outside on the global stage.
For eight years, the Obama administration was a champion of global LGBTQ+ rights. President Obama personally met with LGBTQ+ activists on his State visits sending a powerful signal, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power brought ambassadors from “hostile” countries to Broadway shows in an attempt to communicate the LGBTQ+ plight and LGBTQ+ Ambassador (a position which disappeared in the Trump regime) Randy Berry played a key role in setting the tone for State Department engagement.
Out Leadership has outlined immediate priorities for the new administration to advance workplace equality in a transition memo including immediate support for the Equality Act and for the repeal of detrimental Trump executive orders (Read: reiterating LGBTQ+ equality priorities for the next 4 years). This week’s article in the Washington Post (Read: Biden’s ambitious LGBT agenda poises him to be nation’s most pro-equality president in history) highlighted the fact that the Biden administration is going to be very progressive on LGBTQ+ rights.
At Out Leadership, we are also conscious of risk of overreaching in today’s fraught environment and believe any progress towards a more equitable society should be inscribed in a wider effort to bridge the perceived American “cultural gap” (Read: Election of President Biden: an opportunity for LGBTQ+ business community to consolidate gains and bridge the “cultural gap”). In that sense, efforts abroad might be easier “quick wins” for the administration.
We shared recently the disproportionate reaction from the Wall Street Journal and the Federalist to the NASDAQ proposal on new listing rules to increase representation of women, POC and LGBTQ+ people on Corporate Boards illustrating the fact that the private sector is not immune to ideological conflicts.
Yet, on the reduced inaugural platform on January 20th, the many remaining LGBTQ+ inequalities will be on display among the 535 Members of Congress. While the number of openly gay Congressmen has increased – making it the “gayest congress that we know of” to borrow a formula by Rep. Mark Takano – to 7 (with the welcome addition of Rep. Ritchie Torres and Rep. Mondaire Jones), only three lesbians serve in Congress (two in the House, 1 in senate). Altogether, these 11 individuals (4 of which are POC) represent 2% of Congress. Finally, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Senator for Arizona, is the only openly bisexual representative.
Watch the first openly gay Congressmen Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones on Leadership Lounge with Out Leadership founder & CEO, Todd Sears.
Perhaps more shockingly, of these 11 LGBTQ+ members, not one is affiliated to the Republican party. No elected trans people will be on the platform although we hope Rep. Sarah McBride, a Delaware representative and a close friend of the Bidens, will attend as a guest.
Closer to the center of the platform, the presence of Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to launch a major presidential campaign, and most likely the first openly gay Cabinet member will be a hopeful sight. We are also hoping to catch a glimpse of former Obama White House staffer Gautam Raghavan which was just named Office of Presidential Personnel and will be entrusted with recruiting and vetting more than 4,000 government appointees. Among these appointees, our former Out Leadership colleague Rufus Gifford will play a key role as Biden’s Chief of Protocol at the State Department whose role on LGBTQ+ rights was severely diminished for the past 4 years.
Already, we noted the December appointments Karine Jean-Pierre, an out lesbian and former chief of staff for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, as deputy press secretary, and Pili Tobar, an immigration rights advocate and former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as White House communications director. Previously in November, Carlos Elizondo, who is gay and was Biden’s social secretary, was named White House social secretary.
President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris promised the American people that they would build back better. Recent election results and appointments are very positive signals. The United States still has so much work to do to live up to its ideal of a more equitable society in which everybody irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender opportunities can have a shot at a life of safety, dignity and happiness.