WASHINGTON — Being an out gay nominee for appointed office isn’t the controversy it used to be.
The Senate confirmed John Berry to serve as the ambassador to Australia — the first out gay ambassador to a G-20 country — on a voice vote Thursday, along with three other out gay ambassadorial nominees: Rufus Gifford as ambassador to Denmark, James Costos as ambassador to Spain and Daniel Baer to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Also confirmed on a voice vote was Stuart Delery, a senior Justice Department official who is gay and argued for the Obama administration in court that the Defense of Marriage Act should be struck down as unconstitutional, to serve as assistant attorney general for the Civil Division.
In contrast, the first out gay ambassadorial nominee, James Hormel, faced a far different task. Nominated by President Clinton to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg, several senators refused to let the nomination go forward and Clinton eventually named Hormel to the post as a recess appointment.
Earlier, Clinton also nominated the first Senate-approved out LGBT nominee for any position. Clinton’s nomination of Roberta Achtenberg to serve as assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, famously led Sen. Jesse Helms to announce on the floor of the Senate his refusal to vote for that “damn lesbian.”
Thursday was far less acrimonious, with the five out LGBT nominees coming as part of a package of dozens of nominees approved by the Senate on a voice vote.
“Today the U.S. Senate confirmed five highly qualified nominees to important posts who happen to be gay,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement to BuzzFeed.
“It is a testament to President Obama and the U.S. Senate that the sexual orientation of these nominees was irrelevant to their qualifications for their posts, as it should be. All Americans should be proud to have these fine public servants representing the interests of the United States,” Griffin added.
One out nominee for an ambassadorship whose nomination has sparked some controversy in the country where he is to serve — James “Wally” Brewster’s nomination to serve as ambassador the the Dominican Republic — was not among the several ambassadorial nominations approved Thursday night.