The highest-ranking member of the LGBTQ+ community in Donald Trump’s administration has stepped down.
Richard Grenell, a gay man who has been U.S. ambassador to Germany for two years, submitted his resignation Monday, Voice of America reports. This was expected, as Grenell had said he would leave that post along with that of acting director of national intelligence once a new director of national intelligence was confirmed.
Grenell, a conservative and staunch Trump supporter, hasn’t been a favorite of LGBTQ+ activists at home or abroad, and he has been criticized by German politicians who felt he was trying to interfere in the nation’s domestic affairs.
He was tasked with leading the Trump administration’s efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in the nations where it remains a crime, something at odds with the administration’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies at home — and Trump’s coziness with some deeply homophobic and transphobic foreign leaders, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Being acting director of national intelligence made Grenell the first openly gay person to lead a Cabinet-level department in the U.S. He was not nominated to fill the post on a continuing basis, and U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, a conservative Republican from Texas, has now been confirmed to the position. Ratcliffe has a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign on LGBTQ+ rights.
As Grenell stepped down, Trump made him a gift of the chair he had used as acting director of national intelligence. Those who head Cabinet and equivalent departments on an interim basis don’t generally receive the chairs, but Grenell said in an Instagram post that Trump gave him the chair because for Grenell to be the first out gay person in such a position was “a big deal.”
Grenell has long been known for his active social media presence, which has included tweets making fun of the looks of powerful women, such as Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow. He appears to be maintaining that presence, as this week he tweeted support for Trump’s actions Monday, when the president walked from the White House to an Episcopal church that had been damaged amid protests over racist violence so that he could be photographed holding a Bible at the church. The photo op, which came after police forced peaceful protesters to disperse, was widely denounced by Episcopal authorities and more.
It’s unclear what career path Grenell will take now. He had been mentioned as a possible candidate for secretary of State if Mike Pompeo left to run for Senate from Kansas, but now it’s official that Pompeo will not do so.