Obama’s Transition Team Includes Seven Openly Gay Advisors

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 19, 2008

In a spirit of inclusion and transparency in government, President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen seven openly gay transition officials to assist in preparing for the new administration, with details about the transition team appearing online for public inspection.

The online resource at Change.gov explains the role played by the transition team, saying that "The Presidential Transition Project is the enormous effort of hundreds of people coming together to lay out the agenda and priorities for the Obama Administration," and explaining that, "the transition is responsible for ensuring that the transfer of power from the current administration to the Obama Administration is smooth and that the continuity of leadership is preserved."

Among other duties, "The Transition Project is also tasked with reviewing hundreds of agencies and programs in the federal government and selecting new personnel to manage these important offices," the site's text says.

"Among the personnel that will be selected will be new Cabinet members, national security and federal law enforcement officials, non-career appointments, and other heads of agencies across the Executive Branch."

Promises the text at Change.gov, "We will keep this transition process transparent, so that you will know which officials are being selected to serve in this administration and lead the country for the next four years."

Adds the site's text, "All staff appointments chosen for this administration will be committed to fulfilling Obama's campaign promises, to rebuilding our government, and to serving the American people again."

In a story posted on Nov. 19, the Washington Blade reported on developments in the inclusiveness of the transition team, among which are seven openly gay individuals.

The Blade noted that three out of the seven--Roberta Achtenberg, formerly a city supervisor in San Francisco, Fred P. Hochberg, a businessman, and Elaine Kaplan, a labor lawyer--also served in the Clinton administration.

The three remaining openly gay appointees were identified in the article as the Center for American Progress' Brad Kiley; online publishing mogul and CEO and president of Web-based news resource Smartbrief, Inc., Rick Stamberger; and clean-tech investment fund innovator Thomas Soto, who co-founded Craton Equity Partners.

The spirit of inclusiveness extended to openly gay Bush appointee Michael Guest, who served a two-year stint as America's ambassador to Romania, the Blade reported.

The transition team consists largely of "review panels," and comprises over 300 individuals, the article said.

The appointment of seven openly gay individuals to the transition's review panels might be taken as a hopeful sign that the GLBT community will have a presence in the Obama administration; the Blade article pointed out that individuals serving on such transition teams are often included on a permanent basis in an incoming president's administration.

The staffing of various governmental posts will be announced over the weeks ahead, Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter said, but the rumor mill is buzzing with speculation that Sen. Hillary Clinton might be tapped for secretary of state, and that Eric Holder, who in the Clinton Administration was deputy U.S. Attorney General, might be named to the top spot in that department.

The Blade recollected that during his tenure with the Clinton administration, Holder had established a unit to prosecute hate crimes, as well as having talked with GLBT leaders about anti-gay bias crimes.

More speculation concerned the replacement for outgoing chair of the Democratic national Committee, Howard Dean; openly gay Steve Hildebrand, who served as Obama's deputy campaign manager, has been cited in rumors as possibly succeeding Dean.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.