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Gays Shut Out of

Gays Shut Out of


As if the news of antigay pastor Rick Warren's invitation to deliver Obama's inaugural invocation weren't insulting enough to LGBT Americans, we're now hit with the reality that no openly gay people will be seated at the cabinet table to weigh in on the next antigay flap.

LGBT Americans were hit with yet another piece of bad news Thursday -- no openly gay people will be appointed to President-elect Obama's cabinet.

Less than 24 hours after the announcement that antigay pastor Rick Warren would be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration, reports surfaced that Rep. Hilda Solis is the incoming president's pick as secretary of the Labor Department. The Labor and Interior posts having been the only two positions left for which openly gay qualified candidates were still in the running, LGBT leaders conceded that no out person will be seated at the cabinet table.

"It's now clear that President Obama's top appointees will gather in a cabinet room that does not reflect the living rooms, board rooms, or rooms of worship across this country," said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that in spite of "a very positive series of discussions with the transition team" last week, no forward movement had been made on behalf of gays and lesbians. "Unfortunately, one week later, we learn Rick Warren is giving the inaugural invocation and we're no further ahead in seeing LGBT Americans represented in the new administration," he said. "A good dialogue without real action is only half the equation."

Steve Elmendorf, a former deputy campaign manager for John Kerry and senior adviser to Dick Gephardt, called it "very disappointing" that a number of high-quality LGBT candidates had been passed over. "It's a very diverse and inclusive cabinet for every community except for the gay and lesbian community," he said.

Not that anyone's counting, but the 22 cabinet-level positions as announced/projected include three Latinos, two Asian Americans, four African-Americans, five women, and, yes, two Republicans.

Elmendorf observed that the top-tier White House staff doesn't appear to have any LGBT people in it either. "That just makes the Rick Warren thing an extra kick in the stomach," he said.

Though Elmendorf sympathized with Obama's big-tent argument about wanting to reach out to evangelicals through Rick Warren, he added, "but I don't think [the Obama team] has sent any signals to the gay and lesbian community -- who voted for him overwhelmingly -- that they want to include them."

The inaugural committee is touting the participation of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association in the inaugural parade as a symbol of inclusion. But the news of Rick Warren's high-profile slot hit especially hard with some of Barack Obama's most avid LGBT supporters during the campaign.

"As someone who donated hundreds of hours to this campaign and as someone who is part of one of the 18,000 couples whose marriage is now in limbo as a result of Prop. 8 passing, I'm very disappointed with the inauguration committee's decision to invite Rick Warren to give the invocation," said Eric Stern, who originally supported John Edwards and then helped bring the bulk of his LGBT supporters into the Obama column.

Noting Warren's support of California's antigay ballot measure among other things, he said, "I wish the inauguration committee had given more thought to how this decision would affect the millions of LGBT Americans who put their faith in this administration."

Asked if he thought any openly gay people had been consulted or were in the room when the decision was made, he answered, "Unfortunately, I don't think [so]."

Linda Douglass, chief spokeswoman for the presidential inaugural committee, declined to outline who specifically was consulted. "We are not getting into the details for the selection process of anyone who is participating in the inaugural, but what I will tell you is that we are regularly engaged with the LGBT community throughout this whole inaugural process. This is going to be the most open and inclusive inauguration in history -- that's our goal."

The inauguration team includes at least two out people -- Dave Noble and Jamie Citron -- both of whom worked on the campaign, plus other LGBT staffers.

Other than the LGBT marching band, Douglass did not name any other particular event or person intended to address LGBT inclusion during the three-day inauguration festivities. But she added that a number of decisions have yet to be made. "With respect to who's going to do what in the inauguration, not all the announcements have been made yet," she said, adding, "I wouldn't read anything into that; I'm just saying that's the answer."

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