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Obama ‘looking carefully’ at naming first openly gay Cabinet member

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
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President Obama is actively considering the nomination of U.S. Export-Import Bank Chair Fred Hochberg as commerce secretary and potentially the first openly gay Cabinet member in history, according to an administration official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Blade that Hochberg is under consideration for various positions within the administration, although commerce secretary is the role for which he’s seen as most fit.

Chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States Fred Hochberg is being considered as Commerce Secretary.
Photo: Michael Key, Washington Blade

“What I’ve been told is Fred very well regarded, he’s done a great job at the bank, and he’s one of the folks that they are looking at carefully for Commerce,” the official said.

But the official said Hochberg hasn’t been involved as of Monday in direct talks with the White House about the position, nor could the official offer any timeline for when the administration would make an announcement.

Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Hochberg is well-qualified for a position as a Cabinet member or a senior administration official.

“There are a number of highly qualified candidates for cabinet and senior administration positions and Fred is definitely among them,” Sainz said. “We have every confidence that the president will select individuals that reflect the great diversity of our country and that includes LGBT individuals with sterling credentials.”

In a follow-up email, Sainz clarified that his words are not a confirmation that he’s aware Hochberg is under consideration for any particular new role within the administration.

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said in response to a request for comment that he has no personnel announcements to make.

The commerce secretary post has been vacant since June when former Commerce Secretary John Bryson resigned for medical tests after suffering a seizure while driving his car.

Advocates have called on Obama to appoint the first openly gay Cabinet member as he transitions into his second term. In addition to Hochberg, there has been speculation that John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, might be considered for the role of secretary of the interior. But the White House hasn’t publicly stated whether Obama would in fact nominate these individuals.

During the Clinton administration, Hochberg served as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration and later became its acting administrator. His experience in business includes managing the mail order business Lillian Vernon Corp. and being a director of Fusion Telecommunications International.

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