(WASHINGTON) – President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he planned to appoint openly gay attorney David Huebner as the U.S. ambassador to New Zeland and Samoa. Huebner, who is the head of the China Practice and the International Disputes Practice of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, is also a founding board member and former board co-chair for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
The announcement comes three days before the President will speak at the Human Rights Campaign’s national dinner and four days before gay activists from all over the country will march on Washington calling for equal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all matters governed by civil law.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solominese praised Obama’s selection. "The selection of David Huebner as Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa is not only good for the LGBT community, it is good for America,” Solmonese. “The appointment of openly gay and lesbian Americans, by this Administration, continues show their dedication to diversity and making decisions not based on someone’s sexual orientation, but based on their qualifications. We congratulate David on his appointment and look forward to his service to our country.”
Based in Shanghai, Huebner is former Chairman of Coudert Brothers LLP. A native of Pennsylvania, he is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University. He is also a graduate of Yale Law School. If approved by the senate he would become the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history, and the first by this administration.
“As the American people have learned from my experience, sexual orientation has nothing to do with ones ability to represent our country abroad in the foreign service,” said Jim Hormel, the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador appointed to Luxembourg by President Bill Clinton and a founder of the Human Rights Campaign. “I am pleased that President Obama has chosen David Huebner who will serve as an excellent ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.”
Obama’s relationship with the GLBT community has been shaky since his election. Leaders within the gay community were outraged at the President’s invitation of evangelist Reverend Rick Warren to speak at his inauguration. Warren was an outspoken supporter of California’s Yes on 8 campaign, which overturned the California supreme court ruling allowing same sex couples the right to marry.
During his campaign, Obama pledged his support in overturning “don’t ask don’t tell” as well as the Defense of Marriage Act. Yet Obama’s slow and incremental approach has many gay rights activists raising an eyebrow.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended the President’s approach in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “The president made commitments on those issues — not just, quite frankly, in a presidential race but ran on some of those commitments in a Senate race. They are commitments that are important to him and he is intent on making progress on those issues and is working with the Pentagon to ensure, at least in 'don't ask, don't tell,' that we make progress on it."