President-elect Joe Biden has chosen former ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford, to fill an important role in the State Department as he fills out the incoming administration. The out “celebrity” diplomat will be the Chief of Protocol.
Gifford was one of Barack Obama’s top election campaign advisers before being nominated as an ambassador. He was Biden’s deputy campaign manager focused on finance, external outreach, and coalition building.
Gifford was referred to as Obama’s unofficial “ambassador to the gay community.” He was named ambassador in 2013, and in 2015 he married his husband Stephen DeVincent in Copenhagen, shortly after marriage equality was legalized in the U.S.
In 2008, Gifford served as an adviser to the Obama campaign. During Obama’s first term, he was the Democratic National Committee’s finance director. In 2012, he was the finance director of Obama’s reelection campaign, before he was named ambassador.
In 2018, he ran for Congress in Massachusetts, but he lost the campaign.
He was incredibly popular with the Danish people and other European diplomats while he was an ambassador. He even won a Danish television award for his participation in the documentary series, “I am the Ambassador from America.”
Gifford hosted the premiere Pride party in the country at the American embassy and marched in the yearly parade. While invitations to the soirée were previously the hottest tickets in Copenhagen, once Trump took office the event became taboo.
“We do not want to rubber stamp the Trump administration’s backlash of LGBT rights by our presence. We are aware that the invitations may be perceived as personal, but it must be clear that there is no official participation by LGBT Denmark’s leadership,” LGBT Denmark’s Peder Holk Svendsen told reporters. The group is the oldest queer organization in the country.
Even Copenhagen Pride, once the biggest booster of the American Pride festivities, refused to attend the event.
Axios notes that “the chief’s hand also is usually the first shaken by a dignitary upon arriving in the United States.”
Gifford will act as a liaison between the foreign diplomatic corps in Washington and the administration, oversee State Department and Blair House functions, and travel with the president frequently.
Again… it’s happening people. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/7Su4QyfsBs
— Rufus Gifford (@rufusgifford) January 14, 2021