The Senate confirms Biden’s groundbreaking LGBTQ+ nominees – Gina Ortiz Jones (L) and Shawn Skelly (R) – to the Department of Defense. (Photo by Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call/Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for OUT Magazine)
The US Senate has confirmed two of president Joe Biden’s LGBT+ nominees to high-profile positions in the Defense Department by unanimous consent.
Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian former Air Force pilot and Texas congressional candidate, was confirmed Tuesday (20 July) as undersecretary of the Air Force. Trans veteran Shawn Skelly was appointed the same day as the assistant secretary of defence for readiness.
Jones is the first out lesbian to service in the role, according to Matt Hill, the senior associate communications director for the White House.
Hill added that Skelly is now the highest-ranking out trans official in the Department of Defense.
HISTORY: The Senate has confirmed two of President Biden’s groundbreaking LGBTQ+ nominees >>
🔘 Gina Ortiz Jones as Under Secretary of the Air Force, the first out lesbian to serve in the role
🔘 Shawn Skelly, the highest-ranking out transgender @DeptofDefense official
— Matt Hill (@MattHill46) July 22, 2021
This also is the second time in US history that the Senate has confirmed an openly trans person as a presidential appointment. The first was Dr Rachel Levine’s historic confirmation as assistant secretary for health in March.
Jones served as an Air Force intelligence officer and was deployed to Iraq, serving under the military’s vile “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. After leaving the Air Force, she advised on military operations in Central and South America and eventually joined the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Jones ran for congress as a Democrat in Texas in 2018 and 2020 before her historic appointment to the Department of Defense this year.
Skelly served in the US Navy for over two decades as a naval flight officer and eventually retired from active duty as a commander. She joined Obama’s administration in 2013 as the first trans veteran appointed by a US president.
Skelly also held a top role within the Biden’s presidential transition agency team. She is an active LGBT+ advocate and serves as the vice president and co-founder of Out in National Security – a network of LGBT+ activists and national security professionals.
The new Biden appointees will ‘transform perceptions of LGBTQ people’ in the US military
Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement that both women served in the US Armed Forces when “living openly could result in discharge and a lost career”.
Parker added their “ascension to key leadership positions” is a “powerful moment” for service members who “served or continue to serve in silence”.
“Their confirmation will transform perceptions of LGBTQ people within the ranks of the US military, but also among the leaders of militaries we work with around the world,” Park said, according to the Washington Blade.
Jones and Skelly are among the several LGBT+ political appointees put forth by president Biden. Another out LGBT+ person nominated by Biden for a high-profile defense role is Brenda ‘Sue’ Fulton.
The lesbian activist has been slated for assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs at the Department of Defense. However, her nomination has not had a hearing in the Senate.