President Joe Biden has nominated Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian Iraq war veteran and former congressional candidate, to be the next Under Secretary of the Air Force.
Jones is one of 10 individuals who was nominated by Biden for national security positions on Tuesday.
If confirmed, Jones would become the first out lesbian to serve as under secretary of a military branch.
Jones, a Filipina-American, was raised by a single mom in Texas before attending Boston University on a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship.
She also has advanced degrees from the University of Kansas and the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, according to the San Antonio Current.
While in the Air Force, Jones was an intelligence officer who deployed to Iraq with the 18th Air Support Operations Group. More recently, she worked in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative before moving back to San Antonio to run for Congress.
In 2018, she challenged then-U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R) for the 23rd Congressional District seat, which stretches from San Antonio along the Texas-Mexico border and into El Paso. She narrowly lost that race by fewer than 1,000 votes.
In 2020, she ran again, this time challenging Hurd’s successor, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R), who won by 4 percentage points, bolstered by President Trump’s coattails in the more rural portions of the district.
Since the election, Jones has used her public position to advocate for gun reform measures and speak out against anti-Asian racism.
Jones also previously spoke out in favor of lifting the ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military, prompting the NRCC to release opposition research and run ads against her accusing her of wanting to “divert” funds for U.S. troops to pay for “transgender re-assignment surgeries.”
“From deploying to Iraq to working hard for Texas families, Gina Ortiz Jones’s life of public service has consistently reflected the best of San Antonio,” San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro wrote in a Facebook post. “I know she’ll continue to make our hometown proud in the United States Air Force leadership.”
Equality PAC, the political arm of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, which had previously endorsed Jones during her congressional bids, said it was “incredibly pleased” with Biden’s selection of Jones.
“Throughout her life, Gina has bravely served our nation, both as a member of the United States Air Force and as an intelligence officer,” Equality PAC Co-Chairs Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), said in a statement.
“Simply put, Gina is uniquely qualified for this role, and we urge the Senate to quickly confirm her to this critical post. We look forward to working with Under Secretary Ortiz Jones and the Biden administration to create a more inclusive military for all.”
Ruben Gonzales, the executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocates for out LGBTQ individuals in public service and submits names of qualified LGBTQ individuals via its Presidential Appointments Initiative, had nothing but praise for Jones.
“Gina’s nomination to be the number two civilian leader of the Air Force is groundbreaking and when confirmed will be one of just a handful of lesbian appointees ever approved by the U.S. Senate,” Gonzales said in a statement. “Gina began her career under the shadow of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — serving despite her country demanding she hide who she is. Her nomination demonstrates our progress and her experience and qualifications will make her an excellent under secretary.”
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