Pete Buttigieg Becomes First Openly Gay Person Confirmed To US Cabinet
Pete Buttigieg has become the first openly gay person to be confirmed to a cabinet position, after his nomination as Transport Secretary was approved by the Senate on Tuesday, February 2.
Buttigieg said that he was ‘honoured and humbled’ to be appointed to the position after the Senate voted him through by a margin of 86-13. President Biden said that his former Democratic rival, who will also be the youngest member of the cabinet, would bring a ‘new voice’ to the government.
While Buttigieg is not the first out gay man to hold a cabinet position, his historic appointment marks the first time an openly gay person has been voted through by the Senate. The former Mayor of South Bend, who rose to fame as ‘Mayor Pete’ during the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, will inherit one of the largest government branches, responsible for 55,000 staff and a budget of around $87 billion.
Buttigieg is expected to prioritise introducing measures to tackle climate change, and is set to be a central figure in President Biden’s ambitious climate and infrastructure plan. The Biden administration has already announced $2 trillion will be invested in eco solutions, with proposals for zero-emission mass transit systems, regulations to clean up the fuel industry and a major increase in support for electric vehicles, including the deployment of half a million charging stations across the country.
Buttigieg’s arrival in the role comes during a difficult time for the country’s public transport infrastructure, which has seen a huge decline in use during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Afghanistan vet has said that he is ‘ready to get to work’ improving safety and trust in transport infrastructure, and also pledged to improve transport provisions for historically underserved communities, saying that he understood that ‘at their worst, misguided policies and missed opportunities in transportation can reinforce racial and economic inequality’.
During his confirmation hearing, Buttigieg faced questions over his inexperience in transportation policy, and also drew criticism from Republicans after he failed to rule out paying for the climate and infrastructure plan through a hike in fuel tax. The Biden administration has not said how they propose paying for the plan, The Guardian reports, but a spokesperson for Buttigieg has since said he opposed increasing the tax.
In a statement following the confirmation, Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David praised Buttigieg’s approval as a breakthrough moment for the LGBTQ+ community, saying ‘let this important moment for our movement serve as a reminder to every LGBTQ young person: You too can serve your country in any capacity you earn the qualifications to hold.’
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