Entries from: LGBT officials

Victory, Bohnett send LGBT leaders to Harvard

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute today announced its 2012 class of David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellows, a group of 11 openly LGBT leaders in government and non-profit organizations who will receive scholarships to attend an elite executive development program at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School this summer.  The Fellows will also enjoy follow-up programming and networking events throughout their careers.
The Victory Institute and the David Bohnett Foundation partner each year to send accomplished, mid-career, openly LGBT professionals to Harvard’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program, which is known for its hands-on learning experience designed to help seasoned public officials meet the changing needs of their constituents and communities.

harvard-logoThe Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute’s 2013 class of David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellows are leaders in politics, government and non-profit organizations who receive scholarships to attend an elite executive development program at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School.  The Fellows will also enjoy follow-up programming and networking events throughout their careers.

The Victory Institute and the David Bohnett Foundation partner each year to send accomplished, mid-career, openly LGBT professionals to Harvard’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program, which is known for its hands-on learning experience designed to help seasoned public officials meet the changing needs of their constituents and communities.

“This year’s Bohnett Fellows are some of the brightest and most dedicated LGBT leaders in America,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Institute.  ”The time they spend at Harvard this summer will strengthen the skills they need to serve their communities effectively, and it will prepare them for even greater challenges ahead.”

2013 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellows

Beth Bye – State Senator, 5th District, Connecticut

On November 2, 2010, Senator Beth Bye was elected State Senator for the 5th Senate District of Connecticut. Beth is co-chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee and is a member of the Appropriations, Education, and Judiciary committees. Beth is widely recognized as one of the state’s leading authorities on early childhood education. She has a strong interest in program and facility development and has had a role in the development of four model preschool programs in the Hartford region over the past 10 years serving a combined 750 children. Beth was named “Legislator of the Year” in 2009 and 2011 by the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance. She has served as vice chair of the West Hartford Board of Education as well as having coached various youth sports teams over the years. Beth and her wife, Tracey Wilson, were the first gay couple to be married in Connecticut in 2008.

Brian Sims – State House Representative, 182nd District, Pennsylvania

In 2012 Brian Sims became the first openly LGBT person ever elected to the Pennsylvania State legislature when he won election to Philadelphia’s 182nd District seat in the House of Representatives. Prior to running for office, he had distinguished himself as an attorney and civil rights advocate. A former member of the National Campaign Board of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Sims served as the Staff Counsel for Policy and Planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association and stepped down as the President of the Board of Equality Pennsylvania and as the Chairman of GALLOP to seek public office.

Chris Clark – Vice Mayor, Mountain View, California

Chris Clark is the Vice Mayor of Mountain View, California and the city’s youngest and first openly gay city council member. He was born and raised on a family farm in rural Illinois, attended local public schools, and was selected at age 16 to serve as a Page for the U.S. House of Representatives. He then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend Stanford University. Chris has broad professional experience in the public and private sectors and is currently the Vice President of Partnerships at a Silicon Valley technology company.

Jessie Ulibarri – State Senator, 21st District, Colorado

Colorado State Senator Jessie Ulibarri represents Senate District 21 in Adams County. At the age of 30, he is the youngest member currently serving in the State Senate in Colorado. Jessie served as the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee this last legislative session. He was instrumental in passing Civil Unions, Colorado ASSET, and many bills for underserved communities in the State of Colorado. For over a decade, Jessie has worked in nonprofit advocacy advancing policies that promote opportunity and fairness.

Kevin Beckner – County Commissioner, Hillsborough County, Florida

Kevin Beckner was elected in 2008 as the first openly gay elected official in Hillsborough County (Tampa) Florida. Reelected countywide in 2012, he represents over 1.2 million people. He is one of seven county commissioners responsible for approving an annual operating and capital budget totaling over $3 billion. A native of Indiana, Kevin is a graduate of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with Minors in Business and Psychology from Indiana University in 1993. His legislative emphasis is on at-risk youth, human rights, public safety, fiscal responsibility, and sustainable growth. Continue reading »

Gay men named ambassadors to Australia, Dominican Republic

mediumJohn Berry, the former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become the next ambassador to Australia.

“We’re thrilled for our friend John, who served so ably at OPM.  He’s an extraordinarily capable and dedicated public servant, and I expect he will be a huge asset to the president in strengthening America’s ties with our ally, Australia,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute.

Obama also nominated James “Wally” Brewster, Jr., to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic.  ”Wally has been an outstanding champion for LGBT equality and for the democratic principles that make America a beacon of hope for the world.  I congratulate him on this high honor,” said Wolfe.

According to a White House press release, Berry served as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management from April 2009 to April 2013.  Previously, he was the Director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park from 2005 to 2009, and the Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation from 2000 to 2005.  From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Berry served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior.  From 1995 to 1997, he was Director of Government Relations and Senior Policy Advisor at the Smithsonian Institution.  He joined the federal government in 1994 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement at the Department of Treasury.  Before joining the Department of Treasury, Mr. Berry was the Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer.  Mr. Berry received a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park and an M.P.A. from Syracuse University.

Brewster is the Senior Managing Partner for SB&K Global, a brand strategy and consumer dynamics consulting firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Before starting SB&K Global in 2010, he was an Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications with General Growth Properties (GGP), a real estate investment trust headquartered in Chicago.  Prior to joining GGP in 1996, Mr. Brewster worked in management at several real estate companies in Texas, including The Rouse Company and the DeBartolo Corporation.  Earlier in his career, he held marketing and management positions with Carla Francis, Inc. and the Jim Collins Company in Dallas, Texas.  Mr. Brewster is a National LGBT Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee and currently serves on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

Gay men appointed U.S. ambassadors to Spain, Denmark

flagPresident Barack Obama today appointed Rufus Gifford as the next U.S. ambassador to Denmark, and James Costos as ambassador to Spain.  Both men are openly gay.

“We congratulate Rufus Gifford and James Costos, whose nominations reflect the president’s strong commitment to eliminating barriers to public service for LGBT Americans.  I’m confident they will both represent the United States with distinction,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute.

James Costos is Vice President of Global Licensing and Retail for Home Box Office (HBO).  He began his career in New York as a fashion and retail executive.  From 2001 to 2002, he was Vice President of Retail for Hermes in New York, and from 1991 to 2001, he was Vice President of Retail Operations for Tod’s in New York.  Mr. Costos currently serves on the Board of Directors of The Humane Society of the United States.  He received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts.

Rufus Gifford most recently served as Finance Chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.  He served as Finance Director for Obama for America from 2011 to 2012, and as Finance Director for the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011.  From 2008 to 2009, he was the California Finance Director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, after working as a political consultant in California from 2004 to 2008.  He received a B.A. from Brown University.

The nominations must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

60th anniversary of federal government’s gay purge

act2c-imgThe renewed effort to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act launched last week came days before the 60th anniversary of a defining moment in LGBT history, when thousands of employees and contractors were purged from the federal government because they were gay or lesbian.

On April 27, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an executive order calling for the removal of homosexuals from all federal agencies. Gay and lesbian government workers were immediately fired or resigned out of fear of being publicly outed.  Even LGBT people working in the private sector whose jobs required them to have a federal security clearance were also fired or resigned.

The supposed justification for the purge was that homosexuals were a godless, immoral group who would work with communists to overthrow the government, thereby posing an imminent threat to national security.

While many remember the “Red Scare” of the mid-20th century, the purging of LGBT government employees, dubbed the “Lavender Scare,” today rarely receives its due as a catalyst for the LGBT equality movement. In 2004, David K. Johnson helped bring the historical moment to light in his book The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government.

This summer, a documentary titled “The Lavender Scare” is set to hit theaters and film festivals. Gay Politics spoke with Producer/Director Josh Howard and Executive Producer Kevin Jennings about the making of the film and the importance of the Lavender Scare, both 60 years ago and today.

GP: What was your motivation in creating the film?

JH: Our aim is to shed light an important aspect of LGBT history that has never received the attention it deserves.  There are many, many movies and books about the Cold War and the McCarthy Era, but the story of how gay men and lesbians were systematically driven from their government jobs during that time has never been fully told.  Thousands and thousands of LGBT people fired; by contrast, only a couple of hundred suspected Communists lost their jobs.  The history books don’t acknowledge this, and as a result few very people know about it.  It’s a dramatic example of the ways in which the role of the LGBT community is often overlooked and marginalized in the telling of American history. The Lavender Scare will help to correct the historical record and bring this story to a broad audience.  As we have learned all too well, if our community doesn’t speak out on its own behalf, nobody is going to do it for us.

KJ: We also felt that if we didn’t make this film now, it could never be made.  Fewer and fewer people who lived through the witch hunts are still alive.  In order to tell this story, we need the first-hand accounts of both the victims of the witch hunts and the government officials who were in charge.  We have been successful in locating and interviewing enough key players to be able to construct a compelling film, but we knew our window of opportunity was closing.  In fact, one of the key players in the story is Frank Kameny, who became the first person to fight back against the government’s policy of firing LGBT people, and went on to devote his entire life to the fight for LGBT rights.  We spent three days filming interviews with Frank.  Sadly, he passed away shortly thereafter.

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Gay man confirmed for high-ranking Air Force post

fanningEric Fanning, an openly gay man, was confirmed Thursday by the U.S. Senate as under secretary of the Air Force, the second-highest ranking civilian position.

Fanning was appointed by President Barack Obama last August, and previously served as Deputy Under Secretary and Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Department of the Navy.  He has deep experience both within the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, where he worked on the House Armed Services Committee.

According to the U.S. Air Force Web site, the Under Secretary for the Air Force is responsible for “the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of…more than 333,000 active duty men and women, 178,000 Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve members, 182,000 civilians, and their families.”

Fanning served on the board of directors for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund from 2004 to 2007.