(WB) Pete Buttigieg, who made waves in the 2020 election before dropping out and endorsing Joe Biden, has obtained the nod from the president-elect to become the first openly gay person to obtain Senate confirmation for a Cabinet-level role, the Washington Blade has confirmed.
Buttigieg, who previously served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is set to obtain the nomination as transportation secretary. CNN was the first to report the news development.
Amid media reports in Axios, CNN and the Daily Beast Buttigieg was in contention for the position, a Democratic insider told the Blade Buttigieg was heavily lobbying the transition team for the job.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also “leaned in heavily” to promote Buttigieg to become transportation secretary, a Democratic insider told the Blade. The two bonded during preparation before the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City when Buttigieg stood in for Mike Pence, the Democratic insider said.
The news breaks after the Blade reported last week some leaders in the LGBT community were unhappy with the LGBT movement for not being as vocal in calling for the nomination of an openly LGBT Cabinet secretary. After all, other minority groups, including the Black and Latino leaders, were more vocal in calling for Cabinet appointments and getting key appointments as a result.
At the same time, Buttigieg had been turning down roles in Biden’s Cabinet, telling Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, he won’t pursue the role of secretary of veterans affairs despite media speculation he was in contention for the job, two Democratic sources said.
One Democratic insider said in talks with the transition team about the position of White House director of Office of Management & Budget, Buttigieg rejected the proposal and said he wanted a position in the “real Cabinet” and not a “staff-level” job.
Annise Parker, CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, hailed the news Buttigieg would be nominated as transportation secretary as “a new milestone in a decades-long effort to ensure LGBTQ people are represented throughout our government.”
“It distances our nation from a troubled legacy of barring out LGBTQ people from government positions and moves us closer to the president-elect’s vision of a government that reflects America,” Parker said. “As an out LGBTQ person, Pete will bring a unique perspective that will inform and influence policy throughout the federal government. Most important, however, is that Pete will bring his intellect and energy to the Department of Transportation and our nation will be better off because of it.”
The Biden transition team didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.
Despite the historic first Buttigieg is set to achieve, he won’t be the first openly gay person to serve as a Cabinet official. That distinction belongs to Richard Grenell, who was acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration before he resigned and became the face of LGBT outreach for the Trump campaign.
Grenell, however, never sought or obtained Senate confirmation for the acting DNI job, even though the chamber approved him for his concurrent role as U.S. ambassador to Germany. Buttigieg, therefore, will have the distinction of being the first openly gay person confirmed by the Senate for a Cabinet-level position, provided he gets Senate confirmation.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who supported Buttigieg during the Democratic primary, hailed news the former candidate was selected to become transportation secretary as “a brilliant and historic appointment.”
“President-elect Joe Biden has again shown his commitment to diversity and made history with the first-ever nomination of an openly gay American to lead a Cabinet department,” Beyer said. “As Secretary Foxx and others have demonstrated previously, local elected leaders understand transportation from the most important perspective: that last mile to your home or business. Pete Buttigieg’s leadership and work to spark investment helped bring about a renaissance in South Bend.”