Metro Weekly

First out lesbian, LGBTQ person of color confirmed to ambassador-level post

U.S. Senate voted 66-31 to confirm Chantale Wong as U.S. Director to the Asian Development Bank.

chantale wong, lesbian, lgbtq, ambassador
Chantale Wong – Photo courtesy of LGBTQ Victory Institute.

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Chantale Wong as the U.S. Director to the Asian Development Bank, making her the first out lesbian and LGBTQ person of color to be appointed to an ambassador-level position. 

The Senate voted 66-31 to confirm Wong to her new position, with all of the upper chamber’s Democrats and 16 Republicans voting in favor of her nomination. 

Wong, who previously served as chief financial officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, budget director of NASA, acting director of the U.S. Treasury Department, and a U.S. representative to the Asian Development Bank, was nominated by President Biden last July.

Wong holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a master’s in environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She also helped establish the Conference on APA Leadership, which helps guide young Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans seeking careers in public service.

LGBTQ advocacy groups praised Wong’s confirmation. 

“Ambassador Wong is now one of the highest-ranking leaders of U.S. economic and international policy in Asia and is well-positioned to leverage her exceptional qualifications and experience,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, an organization that advocates for greater LGBTQ representation in elected and appointed positions, said in a statement.

“As the first out LGBTQ person of color confirmed to an ambassador-level position, Ambassador Wong is also a symbol of hope and strength for LGBTQ leaders and community members fighting for LGBTQ rights across the globe. Millions of people still live in countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and deny them the right to marry, including many members states of the Asian Development Bank. Her appointment is a powerful statement to those nations.”

Victory Institute’s Presidential Appointments Initiative — first launched during the Clinton Administration — has been credited with recommending various LGBTQ people for various posts in government during the last five presidential administrations, including almost half of the 330 LGBTQ people who were appointed by former President Barack Obama. The Initiative advocated for Wong’s nomination from the first day that President Biden was sworn in, and supported her throughout the nomination and confirmation process.

When President Biden was first elected, Victory Institute and the Presidential Appointments Initiative, specifically, set forth four priorities intended to make the Biden administration the most LGBTQ-inclusive in U.S. history. Two of the four priorities have already been achieved, following the confirmation of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg as the first Senate-confirmed out LGBTQ Cabinet member, and the confirmations of Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Admiral Rachel Levine and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly as the first out transgender people to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The remaining priorities are to have the president nominate an out LGBTQ Supreme Court nominee, and to successfully appoint the first LGBTQ women ambassadors, LGBTQ ambassadors of color, and transgender ambassadors. Wong’s confirmation meets the first two criteria of the fourth priority, although advocates would gladly accept additional LGBTQ women or LGBTQ people of color being named to ambassadorships. Biden has yet to nominate a transgender person to an ambassador-level post.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights also praised Biden and Wong.

“When President Biden took office a year ago, he pledged to transform the Executive Branch by including appointments that reflected the full diversity of our great nation — including people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. From appointing Secretary Buttigieg and Admiral Rachel Levine — the first Senate-confirmed openly gay and transgender cabinet-level appointments respectively — to today’s confirmation of Ambassador Wong, it is clear that President Biden is intent on fulfilling that promise,” Imani Rupert-Gordon, NCLR’s executive director said in a statement.

“While there is still much work to be done on elevating LGBTQ nominees to federal judicial roles, we are heartened to see LGBTQ individuals finally being represented in the highest levels of government for the first time in history.”

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