Joe Biden Names Transgender Military Veteran to Review Department of Defense

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Trans Vet Shawn Skelly attends OUT Magazine #OUT100 Event presented by Lexus at the the Altman Building on November 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for OUT Magazine)
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for OUT Magazine

A former official from the Barack Obama administration, Shawn Skelly, has joined former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential transition team as an agency reviewer for the Department of Defense.

Skelly, who is a man living as a woman, was appointed to the Obama administration in 2013 as a special assistant to the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics and coordinator of the Department of Defense Warfighter Senior Integration Group. Skelly also was director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat at the Department of Transportation during the Obama administration.

The Washington Blade reported on Skelly’s appointment and Biden’s agenda of including LGBT officials in his administration:

Skelly, who co-founded Out in National Security, an affinity group for LGBTQ national security professionals, and served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for 20 years as a naval flight officer, is named a member of the agency review team for the Defense Department in a news statement that went out Wednesday.

Ted Kaufman, a former U.S. senator and co-chair of the Biden-Harris transition team, said in a statement members of the agency review team would rigorously evaluate operations of federal agencies as Joe Biden prepares to take office as president.

“Our nation is grappling with a pandemic, an economic crisis, urgent calls for racial justice, and the existential threat of climate change,” Kaufman said. “We must be prepared for a seamless transfer of knowledge to the incoming administration to protect our interests at home and abroad. The agency review process will help lay the foundation for meeting these challenges on Day 1. The work of the agency review teams is critical for protecting national security, addressing the ongoing public health crisis, and demonstrating that America remains the beacon of democracy for the world.”

“LGBTQ advocates are pressing Biden to reverse Trump’s ban on transgender military service in short order upon taking office as litigation against the policy continues in federal courts,” the Blade reported. “According to a memo from the San Francisco-based Palm Center, Biden could lift the ban against transgender service members in as little as 30 days.”

NBC reported on Skelly but also outlined the more expansive policies that LGBT advocates are pressing Biden to put in place if he becomes the president, including putting an end to HIV/AIDS:

That ambitious platform includes pledges to enact the Equality Act, reinstate Obama-era guidelines preventing anti-LGBTQ discrimination in areas like federal contracts, fight against broad carve-outs in antidiscrimination law on the basis of religious beliefs, end the transgender military ban, and eliminate LGBTQ youth homelessness.

Biden has also set a goal of ending the HIV epidemic — which disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men as well as transgender women — by 2025, five years ahead of the goal set by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address this year.

Top scientists around the world and at the highest levels of the U.S. federal government for decades have been working to find a vaccine for the virus since it reached pandemic status as it spread among and killed homosexual men back in the 1980s. Although therapeutic treatments have been successful in saving lives, no cure has been found.

Biden’s team put out a press release on Tuesday that said 40 percent of his transition team would “represent communities historically underrepresented in the federal government, including people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities.”

The Victory Institute, an organization that advances LGBT elected officials, is pressuring Biden to appoint individuals based on their sexual orientation as one qualification to his cabinet.

While an official list of cabinet positions has not been released, Elliot Imse, the institute’s senior director of communications, named some of the LGBT people who could be on it, including former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for ambassador to the United Nations; Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to head up Health and Human Services; Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of Health, for either the Health and Human Services secretary or surgeon general; and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) for secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The Victory Institute would also like to see sexual orientation as one of the qualifications for being nominated for an open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

And while Biden is not officially president-elect, NBC noted that in his “acceptance” speech on Saturday he thanked transgender people for their support.

According to Gallup, 4.5 percent of the U.S. population identify as LGBT, and 0.3 percent of people in the U.S. identify as transgender, or a man or women living a lifestyle opposite of their biological sex.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.

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