The Justice Department announced Friday that Stuart Delery, a senior official in the department's Civil Division and a lawyer who agued in favor of marriage equality for the Obama administration, has been promoted to serve as Acting Associate Attorney General — the department's third-highest post.
Delery, an out gay man, will replace Tony West, who said Wednesday he is exiting the government — making Delery the highest-ranking out LGBT person to serve in the Justice Department, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Attorney General Eric Holder described Delery, as "an exceptional public servant, a dedicated colleague, and a superb lawyer," in a statement on the promotion. Just over a year ago in August 2013, Delery was confirmed as assistance attorney general for the Civil Division.
Previously, Delery argued on behalf of the Obama administration in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional last summer.
Holder commended Delery for personally arguing in "the most complex cases," and commended him for his work to not only argue against the federal government's ban on recognition of same-sex couples' marriages in court, but to also implement the Supreme Court's DOMA decision across government agencies.
"Over the last year, he and his colleagues have led government-wide implementation of the Supreme Court's historic decision in United States v. Windsor—a case, again, that he personally argued at the appellate level—to ensure that all Americans are afforded the rights, protections, and benefits that they deserve," Holder said.
Should the U.S. Supreme Court take up the issue of the constitutionality of states' bans on marriage for same-sex couples, it's likely Delery will have a key role in devising the Justice Department's involvement and arguments in court. Delery will work with the attorney general on several issues and will also continue work he did in the Civil Division on issues like public health, safety, and financial fraud and "recover billions of dollars for taxpayers," Holder said.
"I can think of no more dedicated, more capable, or more passionate public servant to continue the duties, and uphold the high standards, that defined Tony West's time in office," Holder said. "I am certain that Stuart will help lead us to new heights. I look forward to his continued contributions in the days ahead."
With the promotion to Acting Associate Attorney General, Delery becomes the favorite for the permanent post, which will require a presidential nomination and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
The Human Rights Campaign, which applauded West for his LGBT advocacy while at the Justice Department, too, spoke highly of Delery in a statement to BuzzFeed.
"With an extensive amount of experience in his role as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, as well as his role leading the team of lawyers coordinating the government-wide implementation of the Windsor decision, Delery is an exceptionally qualified leader who is committed to justice," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "The nation should take pride in knowing we have such a fine public servant. Delery is one of many openly LGBT officials proudly serving, a testament to how far we've come as a nation and the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity is irrelevant to the ability to get the job done."
A message was left for the Justice Department's Civil Division seeking comment from Delery.