The U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote (i.e. unanimously) the presidential nominations of several out gay men to important posts in the Obama administration this week. The most important of these were John Berry as Ambassador to Australia, Rufus Gifford as Ambassador to Denmark and James Costos as Ambassador to Spain. John Baer was also confirmed as Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) and Stuart Delery was approved by Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice to run the Civil Rights Division (the same position Thomas Saenz had before he was nominated to be Secretary of Labor).
This is a pretty historic action by the U.S. Senate. The history of what has happened with openly gay nominations that required Senate confirmation is not pretty. 20 years ago when President Clinton noinated Roberta Achtenberg to be Assistant Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), an avowed homophobe and unabashed racist, called her "a damned lesbian" as he spoke in opposition to her nomination. She was eventually approved, but Sen. Helms tied the Senate in knots for days, delaying the vote.
The fact that now multiple openly gay nominations (to arguably more visible and important posts in the Government) are being approved by voice vote is a testament to how far gay rights have progressed since the Clinton era.
HRC's Chad Griffin agrees:
“It is a testament to President Obama and the U.S. Senate that the sexual orientation of these nominees was irrelevant to their qualifications for their posts, as it should be. All Americans should be proud to have these fine public servants representing the interests of the United States."Hear, hear!
Hat/tip to Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner.