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Obama misses opportunity to nominate first openly LGBT cabinet member

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
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President Obama has missed an opportunity to nominate for the first time an openly LGBT Cabinet member by reportedly passing over Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry for the role of interior secretary.

Multiple media outlets, including Politico, reported Wednesday morning that Obama intends to nominate Sally Jewell, president and CEO of the outdoor and recreational retailer REI, for the role of interior secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, she’ll replace outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

John Berry
Photo: Michael Key, Washington Blade

LGBT advocacy groups — including the Human Rights Campaign — have been pushing for Obama to make history by appointing an openly LGBT Cabinet member, and Berry was seen as a natural selection for the role of interior secretary. He has a background as as lower-level official in the Department of Interior during the Clinton administration and has directed the National Wildlife Federation and the National Zoo in D.C.

Additionally, Berry has served as an adviser on LGBT issues to President Obama since the start of the administration. The OPM director was present at the meeting in which White House officials informed LGBT advocates it won’t issue at this time an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors, and Berry also took part in a White House meeting with transgender advocates on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

HRC and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund declined to comment on the decision. Berry also had no comment.

Other Cabinet-level vacancies remain within the administration amid turnover at the start of Obama’s second term. The Washington Blade reported in December that the White House is “looking carefully” at gay U.S. Export-Import Bank Chair Fred Hochberg for the role of commerce secretary. While the Obama administration hasn’t yet seen a Cabinet-level appointment, at least 260 openly LGBT people have been appointed for other roles within the administration.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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