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Biden-Harris Transition Team Includes Trans Veteran, LGBTQ+ Notables

Feldblum Skelly Noble

From left: Chai Feldblum, Shawn Skelly, and Dave Noble

The people tasked with reviewing federal agencies during Joe Biden’s transition to the presidency are a diverse group with several LGBTQ+ members, including a transgender military veteran.

The Agency Review Teams will evaluate the operations of Cabinet-level departments, regulatory agencies, and more so that the administration led by Biden and Kamala Harris “is prepared to lead our country on Day One,” according to a press release. The teams “are composed of highly experienced and talented professionals with deep backgrounds in key policy areas across the federal government” and “possess a diversity of perspectives critical to addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges,” the release continues.

Biden has pledged to reverse the transgender military ban put in place by Donald Trump, making a trans veteran’s appointment particularly noteworthy. Shawn Skelly will be part of the team reviewing the Department of Defense.

Skelly served 20 years as a naval flight officer, retiring with the rank of commander, and then in 2013 joined President Barack Obama’s administration as the first trans veteran appointed by a U.S. president. Her positions included special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and Logistics at the Department of Defense and ultimately as the director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

She most recently worked for CACI International, a company that provides technology and expertise for national security purposes, and she is cofounder and vice president of Out in National Security, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ people in the military, defense contracting, and related areas.

In 2017 she and eight other trans veterans were included in the Out 100, an annual list of LGBTQ+ achievers assembled by Out magazine, a sister publication of The Advocate. “My hope, my outright quest, for both my most recent and current work is to prove without a doubt to others in our community and the public that transgender people are indeed able to serve at the highest levels of government, including the national security establishment,” she told Out at the time.

Chai Feldblum, a lesbian, and Pamela Karlan, a bisexual woman, have been named to the team reviewing the Department of Justice and several related agencies, including the Federal Election Commission, the Commission on Civil Rights, and the State Justice Initiative.

Feldman, who helped draft the Americans With Disabilities Act, has been a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the latter being a federal agency. She served on the EEOC from 2010, having been nominated by Obama, until 2019. Trump had renominated her in 2017, but Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah blocked her confirmation, so she eventually withdrew. She is now partner and director of workplace culture consulting at the law firm Morgan Lewis.

Karlan is a professor at Stanford Law School, has been a deputy assistant U.S. attorney general, and was Roberta Kaplan’s co-counsel in Windsor v. U.S., the Supreme Court case that brought down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Last year she argued two gay men’s employment discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning a ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in banning sex discrimination, also bans bias based on sexual orientation (a different lawyer argued the related case involving gender identity, also successfully). She also was a star of the Trump impeachment hearings.

Dave Noble, a gay man who is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, was named to two teams, one reviewing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the other the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is another veteran of the Obama administration, having been deputy director and acting director of the Presidential Personnel Office as well as White House liaison and deputy chief of staff at NASA. He was previously executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats and political director for what was then the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now National LGBTQ Task Force).

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