The Senate yesterday voted unanimously to confirm two LGBTQ+ candidates to prominent roles in the country’s defense network.
Gina Ortiz Jones, an out lesbian, was confirmed as Undersecretary for the Air Force while Shawn Skelly, a trans woman, was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness, making her the highest-ranking out transgender defense official in U.S. history.
The two women are among the over 200 LGBTQ+ political appointees in the Biden administration. Skelly is now the second trans person confirmed by the Senate, following the confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine to the position of Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Both Ortiz and Skelly have long and established careers in the military and defense. Ortiz, a veteran of the Iraq War, was an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Africa Command and a special advisor to the Deputy Director for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Skelly, a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran, previously served as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics at the U.S. Department of Defense, and as a commissioner to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.
“Gina and Shawn served their country when living openly could result in discharge and a lost career, so their ascension to key leadership positions is a powerful moment for those servicemembers who served or continued to serve in silence,” said Annise Parker, President and CEO of Victory Institute, in a statement released to the press. She added that, “While they were confirmed because of their unquestionable qualifications and experience, they symbolize our continued progress and will further disrupt any lingering notion that LGBTQ people are somehow unfit to serve.”
Also among the LGBTQ+ nominees is Sue Fulton, a retired Army Captain, who was nominated to assume the position of Assistant Secretary for Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Fulton is awaiting confirmation.