Valerie Jarrett, a
longtime friend to both Michelle and Barack Obama, is a
straight ally who should be on every LGBT person's radar.
Jarrett is now a senior adviser to President Obama and heads
the Office of Public Liaison, which is charged with reaching
out to constituency groups (LGBT and otherwise) and is where
our community's own Brian Bond serves as deputy
What many don't
know about Jarrett is that she made a handful of phone calls
last fall to Illinois state legislators who were on the fence
about the civil unions bill that is now on the march there --
it passed out of committee earlier this month, and Rick Garcia
of Equality Illinois says chances are "very good"
that it will pass both chambers this year. This little news
first reported on Advocate.com
but got swallowed up on Election Day.
Jarrett also spoke to
several hundred attendees of a Human Rights Campaign
luncheon on March 4 in Washington, D.C. "She made clear
that her values and priorities and those of Brian Bond's
are very much in line with the president's," said Joe
Solmonese, president of HRC. "She's intent on
advancing an agenda that's important to our community and
very interested and committed to making sure that, no matter
what the conversation is at the White House, we will be
included." Solmonese and other LGBT leaders have already
been invited to the White House on several occasions to
participate in forums on business, health care, and other
events. National Center for Transgender Equality executive
director Mara Keisling attended the president's signing of
an executive order last week that created a White House Council
on Women and Girls, which will also be headed by Jarrett.
Solmonese says Jarrett
spoke a great deal about the president's commitment to
HIV/AIDS issues and she relayed a personal story about losing a
family member to the disease (which is making a not-so-subtle
resurgence across the nation as well as
here in Washington, D.C.
Although she heads the
Public Liaison Office, Solmonese believes she will play a far
greater role than her title and responsibilities suggest.
"She holds what one might traditionally think of as the
public liaison portfolio," explains Solmonese, "but
her role is much more expansive than that. She will be working
with Congress and then she'll be serving as a close
personal adviser to the president."
The Washington Post
lengthy profile of Valerie
Sunday that's worth the read.