It’s the last week in August, and while most of you are out enjoying your last taste of summer, others are beginning to look at what will happen in the presidential sweepstakes after Labor Day when the full campaign take shape and all eyes focus on those three debates. But there’s something missing from this year’s election that the LGBT community doesn’t seem to be participating in: that famous game that takes place in Washington, D.C., every four years played by all those who are politically connected. Believe it or not, people are already beginning to speculate on who will be in the new presidential cabinet. And it’s not just a game.
If you think it’s way too early and that no one is seriously considering the makeup of the next presidential cabinet, guess again. Last week, the transition teams for both the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns met at the White House to begin that process. By law, transition teams for both candidates have taken up office space in D.C. So what does this have to do with the LGBT community?
Let’s answer that with a challenge. Mr. Trump, Secretary Clinton, will you each commit to choosing at least one out LGBT person for your cabinet? It’s a simple question, yet you may ask why it is important.
In recent years, out LGBT people have filled almost all political positions in the nation — with that one exception of a cabinet appointment. There have been LGBT cabinet members, but none who are out. Cabinet members make decisions, are in the public eye and are role models for our youth — allowing them to dream that being LGBT will not hinder their futures. For those who wonder how we as a community have reached the level of equality we have — from a movement that Henry Gerber began in this country in 1925 — it’s one word: visibility. And aside from president or vice president, a cabinet member is the most visible position in our country’s federal government. Take a look around we are already — at the top of corporations, in nonprofits, in education and social reform — but there needs to be more, and that’s called learning the system. The question is, is our community doing that?
That system has already begun. Here’s how it works. Each candidate for president has a transition team. Trump has chosen New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, while Sec. Clinton has chosen former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Each of those leaders appoints other staffers, whose role is twofold: to set the guidelines for an easy transition of administrations, department by department, and to assure that each new person has the knowledge of the position he or she is appointed to and is ready to do it at noon January 20. It comes down to having a staff in place ready to roll.
Now, where does that staff come from? That is the second item the transition team does. It creates lists for the new president to chose from. Those lists include suggestions for all cabinet positions.
Are there LGBT names on those lists? We don’t have much time since the first suggested lists go to the new president in 68 days.
So once again let me ask that question to Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump: Will you appoint an LGBT person to your cabinet?
MARK SEGAL is an award-winning commentator in LGBT media. His memoir, And Then I Danced, is available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or your favorite book seller.