Tag: Biden

Joe Biden urged to legally recognise non-binary people with gender-neutral passports

Joe Biden gender neutral passports

Joe Biden. (Rick Loomis/Getty)

Joe Biden is facing calls to give trans and non-binary people the legal recognition they need with “X” markers on passports.

Under current rules, people must identify as either male or female on United States passports, meaning non-binary people are effectively forced to misgender themselves on official documentation.

Joe Biden promised to introduce a third “X” marker for non-binary people on passports and social security cards during his presidential campaign – however, no such change has been enacted.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched its “They the People” campaign in 2020 in a bid to win legal recognition for non-binary people.

The ACLU is now planning to deliver a petition to the Biden administration on 31 March – Trans Day of Visibility – calling on the president to sign an executive order introducing “X” markers for non-binary people.

The petition, which has been signed more than 70,000 times, notes that trans and non-binary people have endured state-sanctioned discrimination over the last four years in the United States.

“The new administration has assured us they will work to undo this damage, so we must hold them accountable to their words,” the ACLU’s petition says.

“There’s one important action Biden-Harris can take right away to show that they respect and support our trans communities: Give us access to accurate identification,” the organisation adds.

Joe Biden urged to introduce gender-neutral passports in first 100 days

The ACLU asks Joe Biden to sign an executive order introducing “X” markers within his first 100 days in office.

The organisation’s They the People campaign notes that “X” markers on official documentation would allow trans and non-binary people to travel, apply for jobs and enter public establishments “without risk of harassment or harm”.

The Biden administration provided an update on plans to introduce an “X” marker on passports and social security cards in February.

White House spokesperson Matt Hill told The 19th that, while there was no timeline yet, Joe Biden remained committed to introducing gender-neutral IDs.

In a statement, Hill said: “President Biden remains committed to advancing state and federal efforts that allow transgender and non-binary Americans to update their identification documents to accurately reflect their gender identity, especially as transgender and non-binary people continue to face harassment or are denied access to services because their identification documents don’t affirm their identity.”

Joe Biden invited to Nigeria to ‘marry a man’ by raging homophobic bishop

Bishop Emmah Isong of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria

An anti-LGBT+ bishop from Nigeria has suggested that if Joe Biden wants the country to decriminalise homosexuality, he should take a Nigerian man as his “second wife”.

The angry tirade comes after Biden vowed to advance the cause of LGBT+ rights around the world, threatening financial sanctions on regimes deemed to have infringed on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people.

A memo signed by Biden on 4 February instructed US government agencies to “strengthen existing efforts to combat the criminalisation by foreign governments of LGBTQI+ status or conduct”.

It added: “When foreign governments move to restrict the rights of LGBTQI+ persons or fail to enforce legal protections in place, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance, agencies engaged abroad shall consider appropriate responses, including using the full range of diplomatic and assistance tools and, as appropriate, financial sanctions, visa restrictions, and other actions.”

Preacher says Joe Biden should come to Nigeria and marry a man

Speaking to African outlet Sahara Reporters, bishop Emmah Isong of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria hit out at Biden in the wake of the memo, defending Nigeria’s laws criminalising homosexuality.

He said: “I personally take it as a rumour that America wants to sanction governments that are anti-gay. The US has not communicated officially with the government of Nigeria.

“Let there be an official gazetted letter signed by the Secretary of State of the United States telling us to become gay, then we invite the president of the US to come and marry a man in Nigeria as his second wife.

“He must practise what he’s preaching, if the president of America wants Nigeria to practise gay, he should come and marry a man from here so we will know he means business.”

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden (Getty/SAUL LOEB)

He added: “Every nation is equal in the comity of nations. America is a country that believes in the tenets of democracy which is freedom of speech, and I believe that Nigeria is an independent nation, we are not a nation under America.

“We are not among the states under American nation. We have the right to be anti-gay, I believe no one can sanction us for that.

“If they sanction us for being against gays, we can sanction them for believing in it… the worst thing they can do is raise their visa fees and we raise ours too and they reduce it and apologise and we also reduce ours and apologise.”

Nigeria maintains strict anti-gay laws

Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria and is punished by up to 14 years in prison.

A law passed by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 bans same-sex relationships, and also makes a person who “registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisation, or directly or indirectly make public show of same-sex amorous relationship” liable for 10 years in prison.

In October, a judge threw out charges against 47 men arrested under the country’s anti-gay law after a raid on a hotel.

Biden Administration Agrees to Delay, Review HHS Rule that Discriminated in Foster Care, Adoption, and Other Services

Trump's HHS Finalizes Rule Allowing Discrimination in Foster Care, Adoption,

After a lawsuit brought by LGBTQ organizations and a foster youth and alumni group, the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has agreed to delay implementing a Trump-era rule that would have allowed taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies and other health and social service organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. This will allow the administration time to review the rule and potentially change or nullify it.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - Hubert Humphrey Building

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Hubert Humphrey Building. Photo credit: Sarah Stierch. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.

The rule, first proposed by the Trump administration at the end of 2019 with a shorter-than-usual period for public comment, removes explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, and religion in programs receiving grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These programs include not only adoption and foster care services, but also ones dedicated to preventing youth homelessness, HIV, STI, and substance abuse, among others. The rule was filed in its final form January 7, 2021, just one day after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as I previously discussed; and was officially published January 12th. It was set to go into effect on February 11.

A foster youth and alumni group, Facing Foster Care in Alaska, along with LGBTQ organizations Family Equality, True Colors United, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), filed a lawsuit last Tuesday, however, challenging the Rule as unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). “The new Rule reverts to a confusing patchwork of protections that vary between programs and leave many potential beneficiaries and participants, including some of the most vulnerable members of our society, exposed to unlawful discrimination,” their complaint says. It also “violates the APA’s prohibition against arbitrary and capricious agency actions. Its proffered justifications are unreasoned, undeveloped, incorrect, and conflict with many of HHS’s own program-specific regulations, findings, policies, and priorities.”

The plaintiffs said in a statement, “There was simply no excuse for the Trump administration’s unlawful policy sanctioning taxpayer-funded discrimination against people who receive services from HHS grant programs, including youth and families in the child welfare system, youth experiencing homelessness and older adults, among other vulnerable populations.” They added, “We commend the Biden-Harris administration for hitting pause on this harmful and unlawful Trump-era rule, and hope that it will move forward expeditiously to ensure that all persons receive equal treatment under the law.”

This is splendid news. Add to this today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which said it will administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and it’s turning out to be a very good day indeed.

Gay Biden official sends powerful message of LGBT+ inclusion

US State Department spokesman Ned Price

The US state department’s official spokesperson Ned Price has spoken about the importance of LGBT+ representation.

The Biden administration official, who is the first ever openly gay man to be named spokesperson for the US department of state, led his first televised press briefing on Tuesday (2 February).

LGBT+ activists say the appointment of the 38-year-old gay former CIA official to serve as the country’s voice on international issues sends a clear message to the 70 countries where homosexuality remains criminalized.

Innanoshe Richard Akuson, a Nigerian LGBT rights activist, told ABC: “It’s incredibly important for queer people in countries where homosexuality and queerness is a death sentence.”

State department spokesperson Ned Price says inclusiveness and representation matter

Speaking to ABC ahead of his first briefing, Price said: “The point that… President Biden himself has made is that we need a national security workforce that looks like the country we represent, and that’s especially important for the Department of State that’s speaking to rest of world.

“Both in our word and our deed, our values of inclusiveness and strength in diversity will be on full display. Representation matters.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price
US State Department spokesman Ned Price (Getty/NICHOLAS KAMM)

Biden administration has vowed to appoint a new LGBT+ envoy

Biden’s secretary of state Antony Blinken has also vowed to set about restoring the role of international envoy on LGBT+ human rights, which was introduced under Barack Obama but quietly gutted – alongside much of the department’s work on international LGBT+ rights – under the Trump administration.

Blinken said last month that filling the role was “a matter, I think, of some real urgency”.

He added: “We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase. We’ve seen, I believe, the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of colour, that we’ve seen ever.

“And so I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the department is going to take on and take on immediately.”

Lesbian mother writes powerful open letter to Joe Biden as he takes office

US President Joe Biden

A lesbian mother published a poignant open letter in Between the Lines this week urging president Joe Biden to support LGBT+ families during his administration.

Writing to Biden ahead of his historic inauguration Wednesday (20 January), Dana Rudolph, founder and publisher of Mombian, painted a troubling picture of an America where four years of Trump have gutted protections won under the previous Obama administration, of which Biden was a part.

She began by explaining her young son’s fears for their family.

“My son was just a few months too young to vote in the last election, but watched it with great concern, for its results would directly impact him and his family

“Would the next administration be one that treated his family with equality? Would it view families like his as part of the rich fabric of American diversity or as aberrations? I’d like to think he has reason for hope.”

The letter referenced a New York Times article which reported that at a 2012 fundraiser, when pressed about marriage equality, Biden spoke about the young children of a gay couple.

He reportedly said: “I look at those two beautiful kids. I wish everybody could see this. All you got to do is look in the eyes of those kids. And no one can wonder; no one can wonder whether or not they are cared for and nurtured and loved and reinforced. And folks, what’s happening is, everybody is beginning to see it.”

Dana Rudolph is a writer and regularly speaks publicly about online activism and LGBT+ parenting.
Dana Rudolph is a writer and regularly speaks publicly about online activism and LGBT+ parenting. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty)

“Marriage equality didn’t hinge on these encounters alone,” Rudolph continued. “It was the work of thousands of people over many years — but your remarks were a turning point for the administration’s willingness to back it publicly. I hope that as president, you will continue to champion equality for all families.”

Rudolph also wrote about the two lesbian mothers in Biden’s administration: principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and deputy White House communications director Pili Tobar. While neither will work directly on LGBT+ policy, she shared her hope that their very presence will remind the president “that all parents and our children deserve equality”. She also made the important point that LGBT+ families are not just impacted by child services and healthcare policy.

“There are no areas of your administration that will not touch us, for we are woven into the fabric of the American people.”

She closed the letter by speaking again about her son, writing: “I want the country in which my son reaches adulthood to be one of equality, justice and compassion, not only for LGBTQ people and families but for all.

“I’m sure that as a parent yourself, you know what it is like to want such good for your children. Please be the president our country, and our country’s children, need.”

Biden has a largely strong track record on LGBT+ rights – though he has not always been a perfect ally. Today, however, he is considered a powerful ally, especially now that he has taken office.

9 Highlights for LGBTQ Families from the First 24 Hours of the Biden Presidency

9 Highlights for LGBTQ Families from the First 24 Hours

I slept better last night knowing that the U.S. nuclear codes were in the hands of someone not likely to make ego-driven decisions. I woke up refreshed thinking about the first vice president who is a woman, Black, and of South Asian descent. And I was delighted for LGBTQ families, who have a number of reasons to celebrate today.

American flag with children's silhouettes

  1. President Biden yesterday issued an executive confirming that, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June in Bostock v. Clayton County, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is forbidden under laws that ban gender-based discrimination. All federal agencies should implement this ruling in all their programs, the order states. Lambda Legal explains that this should apply not only in employment, but also “wherever federal law prohibits sex discrimination, including in education, housing, credit and healthcare.” Alphonso David, president of HRC, called the order “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.” Among many other things, it will nullify the rule that Trump’s Department of Education issued last week saying that schools could discriminate against transgender students. And of course, protections against discrimination should benefit not only LGBTQ individuals, but also their children of any identities.
  2. There are at least five queer parents in the Biden administration: Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary; Pili Tobar, deputy White House communications director; Gautam Raghavan, deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, Stuart Delery, deputy counsel to the President; Rachel Levine (assuming she is confirmed), assistant secretary of health. The first three are also people of color. Additionally, Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s pick for secretary of transportation, has said that he and spouse Chasten want to have kids, although it is unclear when that might happen. (When it does, I’m guessing that, given Buttigieg’s role, the kid will have plenty of toy cars and an epic train set.)
  3. At least three queer parents were part of the interfaith Virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service that was just livestreamed from Washington National Cathedral: Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, senior rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City, who is a lesbian, and two transgender women: Barbara Satin, faith work director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Rev. Dr. Paula Stone Williams, author and pastor of the Left Hand Church.
  4. Biden will “imminently” revoke Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, which benefits not only transgender individuals, but also their families.
  5. Many of Biden’s other Day One actions—on immigration, addressing climate change, fighting racism, stopping the pandemic, and more—will of course impact LGBTQ families as they will any others. I won’t cover them in detail here since so many other news outlets are doing so.
  6. Less related to parenting, but a fun trivia fact: During the inauguration ceremony, Jennifer Lopez sang “America the Beautiful.” Its author, Katharine Lee Bates, was in a 25-year “Boston marriage” with another woman, about whom she once wrote, “You are always in my heart and in my longings.”
  7. The White House contact form now has options for people to indicate their pronouns and/or the nonbinary prefix “Mx.” So contact them and tell them what you think of how they’re doing for our families (and what they should do)!
  8. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention poet Amanda Gorman and her powerful inauguration ceremony poem, “The Hill We Climb.” If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch. If you have, it’s worth seeing again. The connection to LGBTQ families (aside from its general inspiration for all people)? In March 2018, at the end of her term as National Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman was part of the celebration for the next year’s finalists. Also speaking at that event was Jacqueline Woodson, who had in January 2018 been named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature—and is a queer mom. (Yes, “six degrees of queer parents” is a game I play with myself.)
  9. [Updated 1/22/2021 to add: Senator Bernie Sanders’ wooly mittens, which he wore to the inauguration, have been taking the Internet by storm. The woman who made them, second-grade teacher Jen Ellis, lives outside Burlington, Vermont “with her partner, Liz, and their kindergarten-age daughter,” reported Jewish Insider.]

Happy first full day in four years with a president who supports us!

An Open Letter to Joe Biden from a Lesbian Mom

An Open Letter to Joe Biden from a Lesbian Mom

Dear President-elect Biden:

I’m writing you this open letter as you prepare to take office as president. My son was just a few months too young to vote in the last election, but watched it with great concern, for its results would directly impact him and his family. Would the next administration be one that treated our family with equality? Would it view families like ours as part of the rich fabric of American diversity or as aberrations?

Joe Biden

I’d like to think he has reason for hope. Since this is an open letter, I’ll recap one example, though I’m sure you remember: In 2012, you attended a fundraiser held at the Los Angeles home of husbands Michael Lombardo, an HBO executive, and Sonny Ward, an architect. As reported by Jo Becker in the New York Times, political strategist Chad Griffin (later head of HRC) saw you talking with the men’s two young children and was motivated to ask you your stance on marriage equality.

According to Becker, you responded: “I look at those two beautiful kids. I wish everybody could see this. All you got to do is look in the eyes of those kids. And no one can wonder, no one can wonder whether or not they are cared for and nurtured and loved and reinforced. And folks, what’s happening is, everybody is beginning to see it.”

You said this at a time when the Obama administration was still officially opposed to marriage equality. Some thought your remarks were a planned “trial balloon” for the issue; Becker disagreed, but said that they “inadvertently set off a chain reaction.” Either way, within weeks, President Obama announced his support for marriage equality, relating that his own daughters had friends with same-sex parents and “I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.”

Marriage equality didn’t hinge on these encounters alone—it was the work of thousands of people over many years—but your remarks were a turning point for the administration’s willingness to back it publicly. I hope that as president, you will continue to champion equality for all families.

I am encouraged that you have named two lesbian moms and one transgender parent to your administration: Karine Jean-Pierre as principal deputy press secretary, Pili Tobar as deputy White House communications director, and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health. And Pete Buttigieg, whom you nominated as secretary of transportation, was asked during his own presidential run if he and his husband might start a family while in the White House. “I don’t see why not,” he replied. Perhaps this might happen even as he takes on a different role.

While their work will not revolve around LGBTQ issues, I hope that their presence will continue to remind you that all parents and our children deserve equality. Despite the progress made under President Obama, that equality has been chipped away at during President Trump’s time in office. Even now, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case about whether taxpayer-funded child service agencies can claim the right, on religious grounds, to discriminate against LGBTQ people, people of different faiths, and others. This would reduce the number of otherwise-eligible homes for children in need and could mean that LGBTQ youth get placed with families that don’t support their identities. That case aside, eleven states now allow child service agencies to cite their religious or moral beliefs as a reason to discriminate against someone; nine of them permit it even if the agency receives taxpayer money.

Additionally, on January 7, the day after insurrectionists stormed the capitol, the Trump administration finalized a rule that will allow foster care and adoption agencies, along with other public health and social service organizations receiving taxpayer funds, to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. LGBTQ populations are among the most vulnerable here. LGBTQ organizations are already suing HHS for other recent discriminatory policies; you could save everyone time and money, while helping those in need, by changing these policies as soon as possible.

To guide you, the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, a coalition of LGBTQ, civil rights, and faith organizations, has released a set of policy recommendations to set us on a renewed path towards inclusive, affirming care for LGBTQ youth and families, people of color, and people with disabilities within the child welfare system. I hope you will take these recommendations seriously.

Equity for LGBTQ families—and all families—goes beyond just child services and healthcare, however. It extends into educational policy, housing, employment practices, and even foreign policy, for we LGBTQ families exist around the world. There are no areas of your administration that will not touch us, for we are woven into the fabric of the American people.

I hope our voices (broadly speaking, not just those in your administration) are among the many you will listen to in order to guide our country forward. I am not asking you to prioritize LGBTQ families above any others, but rather to ensure that your policies include and protect us equally so that we have the same chance to thrive. The more Americans who thrive, the stronger and better our country will be as a whole.

I want the country in which my son reaches adulthood to be one of equality, justice, and compassion, not only for LGBTQ people and families, but for all. I’m sure that as a parent yourself, you know what it is like to want such good for your children. Please be the president our country—and our country’s children—need.

Originally published with slight variation as my Mombian newspaper column.

Biden Nominates Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, a Transgender Parent, as Assistant Secretary for Health

Biden Nominates Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, a Transgender Parent, as

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who has led the state’s COVID-19 response, as assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Levine, a transgender woman, is also the parent of two grown children. Her nomination comes days after President Trump’s HHS finalized a rule that would allow schools to misgender and discriminate against transgender students. Do you sense change?

Dr. Rachel Levine

Dr. Levine currently serves as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is leading the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Levine was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state senate as secretary of health and the state’s physician general. She would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

She is the President of ASTHO, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and served from 2015 to 2017. She was named acting secretary of health in July 2017 and confirmed as secretary of health in March 2018. Her previous posts included: vice-chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Dr. Levine is also an accomplished regional and international speaker, and author on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ+ medicine. She graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, completing her training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

She’s spoken often to LGBTQ groups, including a keynote address at Philadelphia Family Pride’s 6th Annual Family Matters Conference for LGBTQ parented-families in 2015.

A 2016 Washington Post profile of her related, “Levine said her children, who are now in college, were very accepting of her transition.” And of her own mother, Levine told the Post, “She said ‘I love you unconditionally and so I accept you,’ and I started to cry.” Levine’s mother “moved to Pennsylvania about seven years ago to be closer to Rachel and her children. The two dine out together multiple times a week and have a standing date for Sunday brunch.”

The Advocate reported last March that Levine was working more than 10 hours a day, seven days a week, in response to the pandemic, and told them, “I want to be judged upon my work in medicine and in public health and in this difficult time, in my work to help to protect the public health in the face of this global pandemic. It doesn’t make any difference what someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation is. We’re really all in this together.”

President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement, “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic—no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability—and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond. She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added, “Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people. President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”

Mike Pence plans to flee country after Biden certifying vote, insiders say / Queerty

Mike Pence plans to flee country after Biden certifying vote,

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

That’s exactly what Mike Pence plans to do after Congress certifies President-elect Joe Biden’s win on January 6.

According to multiple sources, the one-term vice president will immediately depart on an extended “foreign trip” after he fulfills his constitutional duty of confirming the election’s winner.

Three U.S. officials tell Politico that Pence is planning to be gone for at least a week, possibly longer.

Pence’s aides are keeping tight-lipped about the whole thing, but Politico managed to get a copy of at least a partial itinerary that shows the outgoing veep traveling to Israel, followed by Poland, with the possibility of more stops being added in the coming weeks.

Considering that Donald Trump still refuses to concede the race and, according to CNN, has told advisors he might refuse to leave the White House on January 20, Pence having to officially acknowledge Biden as the winner is most definitely going to cause some hard feelings inside the Oval Office.

“I suspect the timing is anything but coincidental,” an insider tells Politico. “By no means is this going to be an easy moment for the vice president or president to stomach.

The trip will mark the second time since Trump’s historic loss that Pence hightailed it outta Washington, D.C. to avoid his boss’ ire and/or cash in his PTO before he’s out of a job next month.

Almost immediately after the election was called for Biden in November, Pence and his wife, Mother, jetted off to Florida for a five-day, post-election vacation getaway on Sanibel Island.

Related: Mike Pence flees D.C. as Trump fumes and coronavirus ravages the West Wing

2 Lesbian Moms of Color Named to All-Women Biden Communications Team

2 Lesbian Moms of Color Named to All-Women Biden Communications

Two—yes, two—lesbian moms of color have been named to Joe Biden’s all-women White House communications team.

Karine Jean-Pierre at BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York City, May 2019. Photo: Rhododendrites. Used under a (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. Pili Tobar speaking at U.S. State Department, July 2016. Image: State Department/public domain.

Karine Jean-Pierre, a veteran political organizer, commentator, and author, who served as senior advisor to President-Elect Joe Biden and chief of staff to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris during the campaign, will become principal deputy press secretary. She served as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs in the Obama administration and as deputy battleground sates director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, was more recently chief public affairs officer for MoveOn and an NBC and MSNBC political analyst. She is also on the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

In an interview with Hollywood Life at the end of July, she spoke about her reasons for being part of the Biden campaign, saying, “I felt like this is my job as a mom to step in. I thought about my six year-old and I thought about what kind of planet or world or country are we going to be leaving to her and her peers,” adding, “I’m a Black woman, I’m a gay woman and I’m an immigrant. And Donald Trump, he is someone who hates everything I am.”

Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents but raised in New York City. In her 2019 book, Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America, she writes about her unconventional path to political involvement and how and why others, no matter their backgrounds, need to step up and participate today.

Pili Tobar, who served as the communications director for coalitions on the Biden-Harris campaign, will become deputy White House communications director. She previously served as the deputy director for America’s Voice, where she advocated on behalf of immigrants. She has also served as the Hispanic media director for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and held a number of other senior communications positions. Originally from Florida and raised in Guatemala, Tobar is a graduate of the University of Miami. She lives in Washington D.C. with her wife and daughter.

They are not the first LGBTQ people to have White House communications roles. Judd Deere is currently White House deputy press secretary, and Eric Schulz held the same position in the Obama administration, the Washington Blade reminds us. As queer women of color, however, and as queer parents, they break new ground. This is not to say that all queer parents should aspire to such lofty careers. Sometimes, we need to take the job that simply puts food on the table—or to forego outside employment in order to better care for our children. At the same time, I find it inspiring to see that increasingly, queer parents who want to ascend to positions of significant national power can do so.

Other members of the Biden-Harris communications team will be Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director; Jennifer Psaki, White House press secretary; Ashley Etienne, communications director for Vice President Harris; Symone Sanders, senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the vice president; and Elizabeth E. Alexander, communications director for First Lady Jill Biden.


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