Still no gays in Obama’s Cabinet

While there has been talk that the President had at least one closeted gay Cabinet member, I suspect George Washington had closeted gays serving with him too – that’s not really the point. The point is to have openly-gay members of the Cabinet, otherwise they don’t exist.

And while it’s great that the President recently appointed an African-American as Secretary of Transportation – black groups were getting increasingly upset about the lack of diversity in the Cabinet – there is still nary a gay to be found.

Vintage woman in closet

“Does this closet look small on me?”
via Shutterstock

The largest gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, weighed in, criticizing the President for the lack of gay diversity in his Cabinet. And when HRC weighs in against a friendly Democratic president – something that doesn’t happen all that often – you know there’s a problem.  Here’s HRC:

“While the Cabinet is full of staunch allies, there is no reason why qualified LGBT Americans willing to serve their country should be overlooked, especially in a day and age when LGBT people are an integral part of the fabric of our nation as everyone from doctors to teachers to professional basketball stars,” Cole-Schwartz said. “The president has said it’s our job to remind him when he’s fallen short and while there’s much for which to applaud him, on this issue this president has fallen far short.”

I’d written about the President’s Cabinet problem before. In December of 2008, to be exact, as then President-elect Obama was finalizing his first cabinet. Here I am quoting the Advocate:

Not that anyone’s counting, but the cabinet as announced/projected at present includes three Latinos, two Asian Americans, one African-American, three women, and, yes, two Republicans.

Guess who’s missing.

And when Latinos lost their third Cabinet appointee – when Bill Richardson dropped out – they demanded another, because two wasn’t enough.  And hey, more power to them.  But if Latinos have the chutzpah to demand 3 Cabinet appointees, I think the gays can muster the cojones to demand at least one… five years later.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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58 Responses to “Still no gays in Obama’s Cabinet”

  1. Ron Drake says:

    “DOMA can not and will not stand. It is inherently unconstitutional.” I may live in a fantasy world, but I’m also RIGHT!

  2. Butch1 says:

    He’s also the first President and democrat to put Social Security on the bargaining table. The very first. He and our “leaders” in the House and Senate lied to us when they also promised to protect Social Security and not touch it yet, they now want to slash at it just like the republicans. What kind of liars are these democrats that we now have in this party? Now the ones I used to remember when President Johnson ran things or when Roosevelt started Social Security. Though I wasn’t born quite yet, there was a real democrat looking out for the common man and so was Johnson with Medicare and the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. We had to force President Obama to get busy with DADT or he was going to do anything because it was too close to election time. We embarrassed him into by a grass roots effort and got Congress moving on it first. He had to jump on board or look like a fool. He really didn’t like not being in control.

    He put the brakes on it by dividing his power among three: Sec. of Defense, Joint Chief of Staff and Himself. Each had to sign off before DADT would be stopped. He even had a questionnaire given to all of the servicemen and women along with their spouses ( of all things why that meant anything ) to question how they felt about serving with a gay person. ( Like it hasn’t been happening already. ) They really thought the survey was going to go against us. It was overwhelmingly in our favor! ;-) That blew-up in his face. Eventually, he and the others had to sign off. They put all of the enlisted men through “sensitivity training” so they would be ready. The people who needed this training was the brass and Obama along with the Sec of Defense!

    So, President Obama has not been the best friend of the gays unless we have pushed him. He does things for political reasons. He hasn’t needed to put one of “us” on his cabinet for political reasons yet. Perhaps he will to divert attention from all his other problems that are no plaguing him. It could happen once the Supreme’s come down with their rulings in June. That would be like Obama to ride the coat-tales of someone else to take away some of their pomp to get a little of his own.

  3. Butch1 says:

    I wouldn’t hold my breath. He just tolerates us.

  4. Sweetie says:

    “Obama personally fired someone for being gay? Yep, missed that one.”


  5. lynchie says:

    And he and his minioms break the law everyday. Drone strikes on innocent people.

  6. Richard Thompson says:

    Obama personally fired someone for being gay? Yep, missed that one. You didn’t actually address anything I said though. But that’s ok, keep bagging on the only President to speak positively about LGBT issues, I’m sure many more people will be willing to be your Champion instead. As a black man, I definitely am disappointed in the lack of “anything” Obama has done for blacks. Hell, as a Democrat, I like to say Obama would have had a chance at being the greatest President in our history, if he had been a Democrat. But bitching at someone who takes a chance in order to champion a cause that really isn’t his own, simply because it’s the right thing to do in the grand scheme of things, is a good way to lose champions all the way around, and I’m not just talking about Obama.

  7. Sweetie says:

    “Sodomy” has no business being anywhere near any legal code in the USA. It is a backward religious concept, not one compatible with secular law.

  8. Sweetie says:

    Qualified gay people are not hard at all to find for cabinet positions. The excuses fail. He and his wife hold fundraisers at places like the Waldorf Astoria where they talk about blood shed from Selma to Stonewall. That sort of rhetoric is a far far cry from a state of affairs where not one gay person has been placed in the cabinet. It makes the rhetoric seem empty.

    You must have also missed the fact that his administration filed two briefs in support of DOMA, one of which compared our marriages to pedophilia and incest. You must have also missed the fact that his administration files briefs supporting DADT. You must have also missed the fact that he fired troops for being gay, despite having constitutional powers to not do so. You must have also missed the fact that his administration stonewalled a federal judge’s orders to provide health benefits to the spouse of a lesbian government worker (Golinsky case). You must have also forgotten that Dan Choi and others had to chain themselves to the White House’s fence to get something done.

    That’s just pathetic, frankly… From Selma to Stonewall to the bloody White House fence!

  9. Richard Thompson says:

    You know what? Not being gay, I can’t possible begin to understand your frustration on this topic. I’ll put that out there up front. However, I have never heard a President speak as openly and approvingly about LGBT issues than any other President in my lifetime, and that includes Clinton. Based on what I’m reading here, it seems he could do more, but I think the very fact that the President of the United States is peaking on LGBT issues openly has contributed to what seems to me to be a environment where being anti gay is now being viewed for what it is, being bigoted. I truly wonder if a lot of the electoral success gay marriage has been having lately would have been possible without that.

  10. craigkg says:

    Let’s quantify this. When one looks at the fact that he has had 47 appointments to his cabinet as President (15 department heads times two terms plus the other appointments designated cabinet level which have seen a total of 17 different people since he took office) plus 10 officials with the designation of Counselor to the President, Assistant to the President or Special Assistant to the President that have seen at least 13 different people in his two terms (I don’t have the exact number, but it is at least 13), we are talking at least 60 top level positions and 0 openly LGBT persons.

    If one uses an approximation of Gallup’s recent numbers for proportion of the that is openly LGBT and take out the under 30 and over 65 crowd that are unlikely to hold one of these 60 positions, you get a proportion of roughly 2.9%. Now consider that most of these people are going to be chosen from among Democrats and at least 2/3 of LGBT people identify as Democrats, so LGBT’s would make up about 3.9% of age 30-65 Democrats. In a randomly selected sample of 60 Democrats aged 30-65, one would statistically expect 2 (rounding down mid you) openly LGBT persons. The probability of having 0 openly LGBT persons in that random sample would be 9%. There is a greater probability that there would be 4 openly LGBT persons in that random sample of 60 than 0 (12% vs 9%).

    Granted, the probability of 0 is not an extremely unexpected probability at approximately 1/11 chance, but it is still monumentally disappointing.

  11. BeccaM says:

    True, but I can imagine all kinds of administrative BS they could use that would point to Article 125 to justify disciplinary measures anyway.

    I’m cynical that way.

  12. BeccaM says:

    They always have a handy excuse for inaction, don’t they? They just can’t let go of the idea that something could be done, but their beloved leader and the Dems continue to choose not to be bothered.

    “The President is required to defend all laws in court, all the way to the Supreme Court!” Actually no, he isn’t, and in fact lots of presidents have declined to defend laws they didn’t like. Such as with DOMA, as you said.

    “The President HAS to enforce the law exactly as written!” Also no. Every single law ends up with the Executive branch, which then writes the regulations interpreting Congress’s intent and the best way to enact those measures. Sometimes the laws make the choice of regs narrowly defined, other times there’s lots of wiggle room. Like for instance when the Prez said he was going to tell INS to put bi-national family deportations at the bottom of the stack and/or grant temporary delays (whether it’s worked out that way in practice is debatable, but still). Or the fact DOMA merely defines ‘marriage’ — but there would be plenty of room for INS to have a rule saying that a ‘legal family’ can also include same sex marriages and civil unions. Guys like Ryan and Ron would apparently prefer immediate arrests and summary deportation of any gay or lesbian bi-national foreign spouse who has overstayed his or her visa, no exceptions.

    “The President can’t unilaterally suspend enforcement!” Again wrong, he can. Plenty of precedent there, too, especially when there is pending legal action. And then let’s not forget the increasingly common practice of signing statements.

    Same deal with, as you brought up, the Executive Order. Wouldn’t 8 years of freedom from discrimination for the millions of Americans who work for companies that have federal contracts have been better than nothing? Wouldn’t we then at least have the status quo of a discrimination ban to oppose a GOP move to dispose of it?

    About all I can figure is they think they’re taking some kind of principled stand for the ideals of absolutely rigid black-and-white law — and totally ignoring the reality as to how our system of laws actually works in practice.

    To put it another way, I’d much rather have a president who is trying to find ways around laws to enhance the lives, liberty, and happiness of as many ordinary American citizens than to excuse drone strikes and war crimes, and to let banksters continue their fraudulent mortgage scams, and to allow corporations to kill people through homicidal negligence.

  13. karmanot says:


  14. BeccaM says:

    Must be a hell of a fantasy world you live in, bub.

  15. BeccaM says:

    And overweening concern-trolling, as I see it.

  16. BeccaM says:

    Wow, you really have been out of the loop. And you have this amazing habit of reading what you want something to say rather than what the actual words have there.

  17. lynchie says:

    The back and the front. Don’t forget the occasional kick in the balls as well.

  18. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Child, please. The Chief Justice himself asked the Solicitor General why the administration is still enforcing a law the President thinks is unconstitutional. The administration’s answer: It would *prefer* a court ruling.
    You damned apologists just make up whatever shit you need at the moment and smugly assert it as if it were divine truth and as if you had any idea what you were talking about. Three years ago you were all shrieking that the president was required to defend DOMA in court. Then he stopped defending it, and you stupid apologists had to get a new line, just as dogmatic as the one that had just blown up in your faces.
    And how about that ENDA order, dear? DNC got your tongue?

  19. karmanot says:


  20. Ryan says:

    The President does not have the power to stop administering laws he thinks are unconstitutional any more than you have the power to stop obeying them. Judges are the ones who have the power to block enforcement.

  21. karmanot says:


  22. karmanot says:

    “our hands are tied,” Like drones dropping bombs and slaughtering innocent Afghan villagers and assassinating anyone, anywhere by presidential fiat?

  23. karmanot says:

    I guess we are not grateful for a President, who like Clinton, said he was our greatest advocate and then stabbed us in the back of every turn.

  24. Ron Drake says:

    If DADT repealed, only Congress can return it to the law.

  25. Ron Drake says:

    The part that doesn’t countenance letting the president get a away with breaking or bending the law just because he can. It doesn’t matter whether the law is “childishly simple” or Baroque: it’s still the law.

  26. Skeptical Cicada says:

    What self-serving falsely pious blather.

  27. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Spare the “helpless President” bullshit. He says its unconstitutional. He has the power to stop enforcing it.

    And where’s that fucking ENDA executive order? Oh, right, better for discrimination to continue than have an executive order that someday might be overturned.

    God, I’m sick of the administration apologists.

  28. Stev84 says:

    They also say: “Having the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recognize that the liberty interests recognized in Lawrence v. Texas
    exist within the military, even if balanced somewhat differently due to
    the military context, is a significant step forward in ending the
    discriminatory treatment of gay people in the armed forces.”

    In the other case you can see that two guys were able to have sex in a toilet and get away with it (it was even a “he said, he said” situation with one claiming that it was non-consual). And that was during DADT (though they probably received an administrative discharge because of that).

  29. BeccaM says:

    I know that, but this is what I remembered from Lambda Legal:

    The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces finds that Lawrence applies to the military’s sodomy law, but that, the special nature of the military means that, in certain circumstances, that law can be applied constitutionally.

  30. Stev84 says:

    They were upheld because it was sexual assault/rape. He had sex with a guy who was drunk and asleep.

    See this for a more ambiguous case that was overturned based on applying Marcum:,%20I.L.%20201000637.UNPUB.pdf

    That case dealt – among others – with the interesting question whether a locked toilet is a private place. It explains the standard pretty well.

  31. Naja pallida says:

    Unfortunately one of the problems there is that if the code itself isn’t changed, the “current standard” could change back to a strict, literal interpretation at any time, and on any case, depending on who is hearing it or who is bringing up the charges. It needs to just be fixed, so it can no longer be used as a tool of discrimination.

  32. Stev84 says:

    See above about the UCMJ. While Article 125 should be removed for being outdated BS they can’t apply it to most consensual sex even if they wanted to.

  33. BeccaM says:

    All true, and I remember hearing about the recommendation. There are several obstacles, including that Congress has to approve changes in the UCMJ and… well, Republicans. But I’m not sure I agree that Lawrence automatically then applies to the military as well as civilian law. The DoD is given a heck of a lot of leeway in setting its own rules.

    I read through that link, and it looks like the Due Process challenge failed, and in fact the original charges (with reduced sentence) were actually upheld.

  34. BeccaM says:

    Well, there ya go. Thanks for digging that up.

  35. BeccaM says:

    Wow, you really don’t read what I write, do you?


    What part of that don’t you understand?

  36. Stev84 says:

    Believe it or not, but the military itself has recommended to strike Article 125 in the DADT report.

    In any case Lawrence v Texas also applies to the military as long it was consensual and no other rules were broken (like fraternization):

    In practice this means that sodomy is only used as a pile-on charge for other stuff like sexual assault. There have been a couple other cases in front of the highest military court post-Marcum that confirmed this standard (though it uses the extremely vague nonsense-phrase “prejudicial good order and discipline”). Here is some more:

  37. Stev84 says:

    There is a actually an executive order mandating non-discrimination about sexual orientation in the civil service:

    There is also this one about access to classified material:

  38. Ron Drake says:

    “…If this Administration can find legal authority for extrajudicial assassination, including forgiveness for collateral damage (i.e., killing innocent people who happen to be near a target), they can find ways around DOMA without breaking its childishly simplistic legal language…” Breaking the law was wrong when Bush did it and it’s wrong now. DOMA can not and will not stand. It is inherently unconstitutional. But–to paraphrase Robert Bolt, you don’t cut through the law to get at the Devil because once all the laws are cut down, there’s nothing left to protect you when the Devil turns ’round on you.

  39. lynchie says:

    I was hoping they sacrificed politicians

  40. BeccaM says:

    No, that is not true. There is a lot of leeway within the law.

    This Administration was ordered to issue health insurance benefits by Federal and Appeals courts, and instead of complying, they chose to continue legal challenges. In fact, there have been numerous court cases where instead of simply accepting the lower court ruling as moot, they’ve appealed.

    This President has it in his legal authority to issue a great many executive orders, at least one of which he promised during his first campaign for the office.

    If this Administration can find legal authority for extrajudicial assassination, including forgiveness for collateral damage (i.e., killing innocent people who happen to be near a target), they can find ways around DOMA without breaking its childishly simplistic legal language.

    Oh, and by the way, the next president could undo the DADT repeal. The prohibition against sodomy remains in the UCMJ and there is no anti-discrimination language in the repeal.

  41. lynchie says:

    He’s evolving. Hopefully in 8 or 9 years he will see the need for gays in his cabinet—oh thats right he is gone on 3-1/2.

  42. nicho says:

    I didn’t say it did, but that it should.

  43. Ron Drake says:

    The administration has done what it is statutorily allowed to do in getting rid of DOMA. Repeal of DOMA is not something the White House can do. Only Congress or the courts can do it. Congress has evinced no intentions to do so, so the courts have taken up the baton. When the administration says “our hands are tied,” those hands are tied by LAW and any effort to wriggle out of it, or stretch it, or break it constitutes a slam-dunk impeachable offense. Besides, what a president does by fiat can be undone by the next one. Look at what happened to DADT.

  44. karmanot says:

    She’ll come out as soon as she finds her Wacco moment.

  45. karmanot says:


  46. BeccaM says:

    While I think it’s telling there aren’t any top-level gay people in the Obama Administration, for me what’s more important is what isn’t on their legislative and executive agendas:

    – No pending ENDA bill
    – No executive order banning anti-gay discrimination among federal contracting firms
    – No call for legislation to patch the lack of anti-discrimination language in the DADT repeal or executive order
    – No call to amend the UCMJ to remove the ban on gay sex
    – No DOMA repeal (and in fact continued calls to “leave it up to the states to decide”)
    – No UAFE (immigration) and it’s already been dropped from the immigration reform bill
    – No serious attempt to find a regulations or rules-based way around DOMA for bi-national gay/lesbian families (the temporary and inconsistently applied moratorium on deporations hasn’t helped much)
    – No rigorous DoJ enforcement of the almost completely unused Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes law

    While I’m glad the official DoJ position on DOMA has shifted, in past administrations, a declaration that some measure was considered unconstitutional usually led to some kind of proactive rules or actions. Instead, all we keep getting is “our hands are tied” — even when it’s clear they’re not.

  47. karmanot says:


  48. karmanot says:

    I would respectfully disagree Nicho: the cabinet doesn’t represent the country as a whole, but a narrow knot of pro-neoliberal corporatists, who support Obama’s increasing weakening of Constitutional principles and the solidification of the unitary office of the Executive Branch.

  49. karmanot says:

    You are right, I can name a few fascist gays that might qualify.

  50. karmanot says:

    Although Obozo is our ‘fiercest ally’ he’s just not than ‘into’ us. I guess the indomitable Janet Napolitano covers all bases in his mind.

  51. nicho says:

    I was wondering how long it would take for the Teabagger buzzword “quota” to show up. There is no objective list of “qualifications” for the cabinet that would produce the person with the most “merit” — just like most other jobs. The idea with the cabinet is that it should represent the country as a whole — and not just a bunch of straight, white men. I’m guessing that if Obama had named a cabinet that was all black and/or gay, claiming they were the people with the most merit, Faux News and the Teabaggers would be shrieking from the rooftops.

  52. BeccaM says:

    It may not have been officially rescinded, but the Feds gave up on the ‘gays are inherently security risks’ quite a long while ago.

    When my wife had to go through a DoE clearance process, the investigators were more concerned with her participation in Wicca than her sexual orientation. They had this weird (and entirely wrong) idea that Wicca included animal sacrifices.

  53. FLL says:

    I think what you mean is “start appointing people to the cabinet based on merit instead of orientation for the very first time ever.” The alternative to basing appointments on merit rather than orientation is to establish a quota of 100% of all cabinet members being heterosexual-identified, and yes, that quota has always been met until now. Think it through again and then tell me wherein lies the “stupid quota.”

  54. Skeptical Cicada says:

    If they were picked based on merit there wouldn’t be zero openly gay cabinet members in all of history. Obviously, gay nominees are being deliberately avoided. So, no, it’s time to counteract the stubborn by demanding an openly gay cabinet member. Take your angry white man whine someplace else.

  55. guest1 says:

    Stupid quota’s, put people on cabinet based on merit not race/orientation

  56. Indigo says:

    Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10450 [all homosexuals are security risks and must be expelled from government] remains in effect. Don’t believe it? Then what is this article really talking about?

  57. nicho says:

    Well that’s what happened when the cocktail queens of the HRC and the other accommodationist groups decided that in return for cosmos and cheese puffs at the White House they would STFU and “change things from the inside.” It’s just that “inside” is in a closet.

  58. FLL says:

    While using the presidential bully pulpit in support of equality is fine, it almost seems like sarcasm when it’s combined with a growing list of actions that haven’t happened: the lack of openly-gay cabinet members, the ENDA executive order Obama still refuses to sign and the unfair immigration bill being rushed through Congress with no comment from Obama, to name a few of the most glaring examples. If there’s one thing the nation can do without, it’s sarcasm disguised as support from the bully pulpit. The long, hot summer has already begun.

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