Karine Jean-Pierre
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Gay Man Rufus Gifford Confirmed as State Department Protocol Chief

Rufus Gifford

Rufus Gifford, former ambassador to Denmark, has become the latest high-ranking out official in President Joe Biden’s administration.

The Senate Saturday confirmed Gifford as chief of protocol for the U.S. State Department, a position that will once again give him the rank of ambassador. He was among more than 30 nominees, many of them for ambassadorial positions, confirmed that day, the Associated Press reports.

The chief of protocol serves as a liaison between the president and leaders of other countries. “For example, Gifford would likely be a point person for any meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, making an openly gay man the face of the United States for a country in talks with a leader who has rolled back LGBTQ rights and looked the other way from violence against LGBTQ people in Chechnya,” the Washington Blade notes.

In response to the Blade's article, Gifford tweeted, “As I read this, I am humbled [and] reminded that gay people were routinely denied security clearances in the US as recently as 1995. As a twice confirmed Ambassador, I think about my predecessors denied these opportunities. Progress.” 

In a January interview with The Advocate, Gifford lauded Biden’s foreign policy expertise. “President Biden understands the global stage perhaps better than any incoming president in our lifetime, and he totally gets the need for a strong America, and how America should act and react to world affairs,” he said.

Gifford became a celebrity in Denmark during his tenure as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to that nation, 2013 to 2017. A Danish TV station did a prime-time documentary series on him, Jeg er Ambassadøren fra Amerika (I Am the Ambassador From America). The series began in 2014, earned him Denmark’s equivalent of an Emmy, and made him recognized throughout the nation.

He also got married while an ambassador. He wed veterinarian Stephen DeVincent in 2015 at Copenhagen City Hall, where the world’s first legal same-sex civil unions were held in 1989. Gifford and DeVincent were a well-known couple around Denmark.

After returning to the U.S., Gifford ran for the U.S. House from a Massachusetts district in 2018, but he lost the Democratic primary to Lori Trahan. He endorsed Biden early in the 2020 presidential election cycle and served as his deputy campaign manager.

Before becoming ambassador to Denmark, Gifford worked for the Democratic National Committee and in Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. He also worked in John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 and later had a political consulting business. He began his career as a producer in the entertainment industry.

He is a graduate of Brown University and has been involved with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT History Museum in New York, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., and UTEC, a group serving at-risk youth in Lowell, Mass.

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