President-elect Joe Biden has appointed a transgender veteran and former Obama administration official to his presidential transition team.
Biden tapped Shawn Skelly, a retired U.S. Navy Commander and the first openly transgender presidential appointee, after former President Barack Obama hired her to join the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, Vice reports.
In addition to three years on the commission, Skelly’s previous experience includes time spent at the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense, where she was special assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, as well as 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Flight Officer, ultimately retiring with the rank of Commander.
Skelly also serves as vice president of Out in National Security, a nonprofit community of LGBTQ activists and national security practitioners that strives to create equality of opportunity and access.
In addition to cementing Biden’s commitment to LGBTQ equality and representation, Skelly’s appointment to the President-elect’s transition team sends a strong statement given that Donald Trump, the outgoing Commander In Chief, used his time in office to ban transgender people from serving in the military.
Biden has previously signaled that he would overturn Trump’s ban once he enters office.
Trump’s administration has also repeatedly attack transgender rights, including arguing that it should be legal to discriminate against transgender people, telling homeless shelters to deny access to transgender women, and supporting banning transgender athletes from competing in sports according to their gender identity.
By selecting Skelly to join his presidential transition team, Biden is also confirming that he has listened to LGBTQ advocates, who have urged the President-elect to create a more diverse transition team and administration.
Elliot Imse, director of communications, for the LGBTQ Victory Institute, told NBC News that Biden has “made clear that he wants the next administration to be reflective of the diversity of America.”
“We know that Biden believes LGBTQ people are an important part of that diverse America. So, we expect the next administration to appoint more LGBTQ people to political positions than ever before, and we hope that it is also the most diverse group of LGBTQ appointees in American history.”
The Victory Institute, which works to advance LGBTQ elected officials, had previously called on Biden to name an LGBTQ person to a Senate-confirmed cabinet position once he becomes president.
“Members of Joe Biden’s cabinet will have tremendous influence over the policies and direction of the next administration, so it is essential an LGBTQ voice is at the table,” Annise Parker, the president & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement. “Allies are invaluable, but the impact of policies on LGBTQ lives is not always fully understood by someone outside our community.
“An LGBTQ Cabinet appointment will ensure our community is part of decision-making at the highest levels and will also be a lasting piece of Joe Biden’s legacy on LGBTQ equality,” Parker added. “At no time in American history has an LGBTQ person been confirmed by the Senate for a Cabinet-level position. It would be a powerful moment and a testament to our community’s place in the nation.”
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