[Photo: Gautam Raghavan, the new White House "point of contact" on LGBT issues, is an associate director of public engagement in the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. (Photo courtesy of the White House.)]
Today, the White House made formal what Metro Weekly first reported on Sept. 23: Gautam Raghavan, the former deputy White House liaison at the Department of Defense, is the new LGBT liaison in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye told Metro Weekly today in a statement, "The White House is pleased to welcome Gautam Raghavan as an Associate Director of Public Engagement in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs."
Inouye said that Raghavan "will serve as the point of contact for the LGBT community in his new role."
Raghavan takes over for Brian Bond, who served as deputy director of OPE and was the LGBT liaison in the first years of the Obama administration. Bond moved this summer to the Democratic National Committee to be the director of constituency outreach. Stephanie Valencia took over the deputy director role, and Raul Alvillar, who has been associate director for public engagement at the Office of the Vice President, served as the interim LGBT liaison before today's announcement.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal advocates tell Metro Weekly that Raghavan's transition to his new role at the White House likely will be quite smooth, as they saw him at work in a similar role at the Pentagon. According to the White House, Raghavan was the outreach lead for the Defense Department's DADT repeal comprehensive review working group.
Nathaniel Frank, the author of Unfriendly Fire and a longtime researcher on DADT issues at the Palm Center until this past year, said today that Raghavan had coordinated multiple meetings with researchers like Frank and repeal advocates, including one meeting that took place at the Pentagon with the co-chairs of the Pentagon working group, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Gen. Carter Ham.
"Gautam seems to have the right personality for a job like this," Frank said. "He reached out in an even-keeled way to all interested parties and was able to communicate with everyone effectively. He clearly has knowledge about the issues that are important to the LGBT community, from my experience."
Winnie Stachelberg, the senior vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress praised Raghavan's work on repeal, saying, "He was the point person in the Pentagon for many of us, and was able to juggle a number of competing constituencies ... in an unbelievably competent manner and I think the results speak for themselves."
At Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Emily Sussman, the co-director of government affairs, said, "We worked with him quite closely and quite often. We definitely look forward to working with him further now in his role in the White House on the issues we're still pushing, being an executive order for nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and partner benefits."
She added, of his outreach into non-DADT areas, "Although he may not be as initially high-profile as Brian [Bond], I think people should know that he's a really hard worker and understands how to get things done."
In a statement responding to the appointment, SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis said, "We are pleased to welcome Gautam to his new post at the White House. He is well-respected in the LGBT community, but perhaps no more than here at SLDN where we worked closely with him in his role at the Pentagon helping to build the support needed and manage the repeal process of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to support out LGBT candidates and appointees, celebrated the news -- while pushing for more action on presidential appointments. Victory Fund vice president of communications Denis Dison told Metro Weekly, "This is an important role, and we're very happy for Gautum and look forward to working with him -- especially on ways we can help grow the number and seniority of LGBT Americans serving in the Obama administration."
Raghavan previously worked for the Obama for America campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Progressive Majority. He is a graduate of Stanford University and is completing a master's degree at George Washington University.