Pete Buttigieg Is First Senate-Confirmed LGBTQ+ Cabinet Member
Early in 2020 Pete Buttigieg was making history as the first viable out LGBTQ+ presidential candidate in U.S. history and by the end of 2020 he was making history on an entirely new front. On December 16, 2020, President-elect Joe Biden nominated Buttigieg to be his Secretary of Transportation – an agency with more than 55,000 employees. Never before had a U.S. president appointed an out LGBTQ+ person for their Cabinet.
President Biden introduced Buttigieg as his nominee, which was followed by a speech from Buttigieg, where he spoke about the controversy of out gay ambassadorial nominee James Hormel in 1998:
“I can remember watching the news -- 17-years-old in Indiana, seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton named to be an ambassador attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay -- ultimately able to serve only by a recess appointment. And I learned something about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong. But just as important, I saw how those limits could be challenged.
Two decades later, I can't help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now, somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world, or even in their own family. And I'm thinking about the message that today's announcement is sending to them.”
The entire speech is available to watch:
Beyond its historic nature, the role was an important one for the new administration, with much of President Biden’s agenda focused on green initiatives where transportation was central. Despite tough questions related to transportation during a committee hearing on his nomination, his sexual orientation was a non-issue, and the committee moved his nomination forward to the full Senate on January 27, 2021 by a vote of 21 to three.
LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President & CEO Annise Parker commented on the moment:
“Pete testifying at his confirmation hearing, with his husband looking on, will be among the powerful images that define this unprecedented transition and will be remembered as a milestone moment in our nation’s move toward social justice. Pete is shattering a centuries-old political barrier that will pave the way for more LGBTQ Americans to pursue and serve in high-level appointed positions – and that is transformative.”
Just one week later on February 2, 2021, Buttigieg was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 86 to 13, making him the first out LGBTQ+ Senate-confirmed Cabinet member in U.S. history.